Heroic NSW Blues halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds overcame a two day State of Origin turnaround to steer Canterbury to a 22-14 NRL win over hapless Canberra on Friday night.
The eight point win all but ends the slim hopes the Raiders have of making the top eight, simple errors and poor execution once again costing them in front of 10,873 fans at Canberra Stadium.
Hodkinson stoically took to the field – despite rumours a cork would prevent him from backing up from his match-winning Origin performance on Wednesday night – to lift the Bulldogs to fourth spot on the table.
His presence alongside Reynolds was important in breaking the Dogs’ three-game losing streak with the duo playing a role in all of the Bulldogs four tries – two of which went to winger Drury Low.
Yet it was the Raiders who burst out of the blocks, an impressive Jarrod Croker scoring a converted try in the seventh minute after some hot-potato footy that didn’t resemble a team that had lost five from their last six.
The Raiders defensive line was also lifting much quicker than it had in previous weeks, putting a lot of pressure on the Bulldogs’ backline.
However Hodkinson and Reynolds adjusted midway through the first half, shifting it quicker to centres Krisnan Inu and Tim Lafai – their lightning-fast hands setting up their wingers for three first-half tries out wide.
The first of those came after a momentum-sucking mistake from debutant Raiders winger Brenko Lee from a kick return.
It gifted the Bulldogs prime real estate for the first time in the match, and Low scored from the ensuing set in the 17th minute.
Several repeat Raiders sets earned them a penalty goal as they went up 8-4 in the 24th minute, but their concentration would soon lapse, failing to complete their last three sets of the first half.
Their lack of possession resulted in them losing the lead in the 34th minute when Bulldogs winger Corey Thompson scored.
A Josh Reynolds 40-20 then set the platform for Low to cross for his second, giving the Bulldogs a 14-8 lead at the break.
A gut-busting Hodkinson kick and chase forced Raiders fullback Reece Robinson to lose the ball while scrambling out of the in-goal, with Lafai pouncing on the crumbs to put the Bulldogs up 20-8 in the 52nd minute.
A Hodkinson penalty goal sealed the match, with Canberra scoring a late consolation try through Anthony Milford.