Trent Hodkinson’s 78th-minute field goal has sealed a 15-14 victory for Canterbury over a patched-up South Sydney in a stirring Good Friday NRL encounter at ANZ Stadium.
It is the third week in a row the Bulldogs have won a game through a field goal and by a single point, with Hodkinson repeating his heroics from last week’s win over the Warriors.
The former Manly halfback’s kick from 30 metres capped a superb fightback for Des Hasler’s side, who trailed 14-6 in the second half.
Already without the suspended Ben Te’o and George Burgess, at one stage Souths had four players off the field but, led by the outstanding Sam Burgess and John Sutton, they almost pulled off a heroic victory when Sutton crossed for a 64th-minute try, converted by Adam Reynolds.
However, tries from Mitch Brown and Corey Thompson plus the boot of Hodkinson, who was 100 per cent from four kicks, helped the Bulldogs find a way to win in a nailbiting finish.
The Bulldogs thought they’d scored with less than 10 minutes on the clock when Thompson’s try was rubbed out by the officials after Josh Reynolds was adjudged to have run behind Greg Eastwood before throwing the pass to the winger.
The decision looked harsh and, to make matters worse for Hasler’s team, Adam Reynolds kicked a penalty from close range just after Tim Browne had dropped the ball on the first tackle.
In a game dominated by some huge hits from both sides, there was also some poor handling with the ball going to ground far too often in the opening stanza.
Souths lost hooker Api Koroisau with a shoulder injury then had Kyle Turner (concussion), Joe Picker (rib) and Davey Tyrell (head) all forced off the field before halftime.
Canterbury back-rower Dale Finucane was put on report twice, first for a dangerous tackle and for putting Picker in a dangerous position.
On the stroke of halftime, Burgess crashed over from close range with Reynolds converting to open up an 8-0 lead.
In the second half, Souths continued to press but, with a depleted bench, they began to tire against the giant Bulldogs’ forwards – led by man of the match James Graham.
Brown went over in the right corner 13 minutes after the restart only for Sutton to extend the Rabbitohs’ lead.
But Thompson crossed in the opposite corner to close the gap, with Hodkinson kicking a penalty to level the scores six minutes from time, then bisecting the posts again with the winning kick.