Canterbury have their spluttering NRL campaign back on track with a hard-fought 18-16 win over bitter rivals Parramatta at ANZ Stadium.
With four successive defeats, the Bulldogs had toppled from top of the ladder to eighth spot and, despite some brilliance from Jarryd Hayne, they ground out a much-needed victory on Friday night in front of a crowd of 30,094.
Des Hasler’s pre-match message to his players was simply to keep hold of the ball and they followed it to the letter in the early stages when Greg Eastwood powered over from close range after a smart pass from Tim Lafai.
With giant back-rower Tony Williams showing glimpses of the form that took him to Belmore from Brookvale for huge money, the Bulldogs were in full control but – against the run of play – the Eels hit back through Hayne in the 21st minute.
Chris Sandow’s floated kick caught the Bulldogs’ defence flat-footed and the advancing Hayne hauled in the ball to touch down under the posts.
Mitch Brown hit straight back for the Bulldogs after another fine pass from Lafai and prop Aiden Tolman rumbled over for a rare try after Sandow had dropped the ball to hand possession to the Bulldogs on the 30-metre line.
Another moment of magic from Hayne set up the Eels’ second try scored by Semi Radradra on the stroke of halftime.
A bullet of a pass from Corey Norman was instinctively flicked on by Hayne into the path of the big Fijian winger who made no mistake from close range.
Brad Arthur’s side came racing out of the blocks after halftime with Radradra crossing for his second four minutes after the restart and Sandow adding the extras from the sideline.
But it proved to be the final time the scorers were troubled as defences from both sides dominated.
The Eels had a great chance to score late on when Sandow found touch with a 40-20.
But his touchdown from a quick tap restart was disallowed after the ballboy tossed the ball to Vai Toutai instead of placing it back on the sideline.
After the play was called back, the Bulldogs held firm to move up to fifth spot on the ladder.