BULLDOGS 24 d. WARRIORS 12 @ Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Canterbury eased the pressure with the club’s first win of the season, subduing an inexplicably flat Warriors outfit under the roof in Dunedin as the NRL went further south than ever before.
THE MATCH: The Warriors piled on the first-half heat with a mountain of ball in the Bulldogs’ red-zone, but could only muster a try to Bodene Thompson from a deflected Tuimoala Lolohea grubber in the 16th minute.
The ‘home’ team took a 10-6 lead into the break despite scant opportunities in good field position, with Moses Mbye scoring a solo try and Brett Morris finishing off a simple passing move thanks to poor defensive reading from the Warriors.
The second half was almost a carbon copy of the first. Shaun Johnson combined beautifully with Thompson to race in for a try in the 62nd minute and regain the lead, but the Bulldogs – under constant pressure as the Warriors peppered their line – sealed the result through ridiculously easy four-pointers to wing debutant Marcelo Montoya (66th minute) and Morris (77th).
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney was justifiably bewildered by his side’s lacklustre display, particularly on the defensive end.
THE MAN: The Bulldogs’ big men did an outstanding job in the middle of the park, withstanding a ton of Warriors pressure and consistently bending the line back despite having only 47% possession. Captain James Graham led the way with 139 metres from 14 carries and 38 tackles.
THE MOMENT: Mbye’s individual try got the Bulldogs off the mark and was a portent of the dreadful defence the Warriors came up with inside their own half throughout the night.
Bulldogs 24 (Brett Morris 2, Moses Mbye, Marcelo Montoya tries; Mbye 4 goals) d. Warriors 12 (Bodene Thompson, Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 2 goals).
TITANS 26 d. EELS 16 @ Cbus Super Stadium
The Titans showed some of the resolve that carried them to a surprise finals appearance in 2016, taking down the in-form Eels to notch their first win of the season.
THE MATCH: The early signs were grim for the home side as makeshift halves pairing Clint Gutherson and Jeff Robson – the latterin for the injured Corey Norman – crossed inside the first 15 minutes to give the Eels a 12-0 lead.
But the Titans clawed back to level by halftime, first through Chris McQueen’s 27th-minute try and then via fullback debutant Tyler Cornish just before the break.
The hosts scored the only two tries of the second stanza – to Kane Elgey and Tyrone Roberts – both from deflected kicks to close out an important result.
THE MAN: Captain Ryan James topped the Titans’ hit-up (16) and tackle (46) counts for his side, setting the tone for a gritty and much-needed victory.
THE MOMENT: Superb passes from Ashley Taylor and Kane Elgey put Tyler Cornish over 10 seconds out from the halftime hooter, landing a crucial blow after the Eels had dominated the bulk of the opening 40.
Titans 26 (Chris McQueen, Tyler Cornish, Kane Elgey, Tyrone Roberts tries; Ashley Taylor 5 goals) d. Eels 14 (Clint Gutherson, Jeff Robson tries; Gutherson 3 goals).