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Bulldogs Match Reports

Preliminary Final: Bulldogs v Sydney City Roosters Qualifying Final
Canterbury Bulldogs 12

Sydney City Roosters 8
Sydney Football Stadium
Report from DAVID PAGE
Rugby League Week (Vol. 30, No. 31)
Star Roosters smashed into submission...

AFTER being on the wrong end of Canterbury's swarming gang-tackling many times during his long career at Canberra, veteran halfback Ricky Stuart could sympathise with Brad Fittler and Adrian Lam in the wake of the Bulldogs' gritty win last Friday night. The Roosters' playmakers struggled to make their usual impact against the constant pressure of Canterbury's close-marking defence.  Fittler was forced to kick off his left foot on several occasions and struggled to apply pressure in the Bulldogs half.  Lam, similarly, was on the end of some brutal defence, and his potent running game was snuffed out.   Fittler was a dejected figure after the match, and Stuart knew how he was feeling.   "If you don't handle 'Freddie' like that you get beaten, mate," offered Stuart. "He was trying everything at the end; I felt sorry for him.  Everything he tried we nullified with great defence." Sydney City coach Phil Gould was critical of Fittler's second-half kicking game but refused to knock his captain's effort.   "Brad Fittler is a huge reason why we're here tonight," said Gould.   "I love him like a brother.  His kicking game was poor in the second half but I can't criticise his effort.  That's football." Gould was adamant that the Roosters' shortened preparation had worked against them. "No doubt about it, particularly the way the game went possession-wise - we were just drained," Gould said. "Canterbury obviously played to it.  They certainly looked fresher at vital stages of the game. "They just had to control the ball, keep possession and get our tackle count up ... and they did it very, very well."

Here come the 'Dogs of war

THE warning signs were unmistakable, yet Canterbury have once again thumbed their nose at logic to slip under everyone's guard.  Logic told us that, despite the Bulldogs' phenomenal knack of transforming into supermen at finals time, repeating their spectacular ambush on last year's trophy seemed a forlorn chance. Despite finishing fifth and boasting the notable additions of Ricky Stuart, Darren Smith and Bradley Clyde in their 199 squad, the unavailability of Jason Hetherington, Craig Polla-Mounter and Travis Norton, coupled with some indifferent form over the closing rounds, suggested there was no need to bother dusting off the club's bulging book of "fairytale finishes".  Of most concern had been the Bulldogs' lack of attacking strike-power. It was the reasoning behind some serious punters being prepared to dismiss Canterbury as the only side from the eight contenders incapable of winning the title.  Canterbury coach Steve Folkes must have thought Father's Day had arrived early when he scanned all the pre-match forecasts.   No team thrives on the underdog tag more fervently, and being written off is usually the catalyst for an outpouring of the club's renowned fighting spirit.  That mysterious Bulldog aura was thick in the air last Friday night when Canterbury delivered a clinical blow to Roosters' hopes of a first premiership since 1975.  Canterbury's attacking strike-power wasn't an issue - it rarely is when you restrict your opponents to one ". No wonder the wily Terry Lamb had scoffed at suggestions Canterbury would he out-motored in the big games. The Bulldogs legend knows that play-off intensity allows Canterbury to dictate terms ... once the contest becomes an arm-wrestle, the 'Dogs of war have a happy knack of winning out.  And so it was last Friday. The Roosters hit the front just before halftime when Ivan Cleary scored and converted, making up for an earlier knock-on at dummy half which preceded Canterbury's opening try.  The match hung in the balance early in the second half before the Bulldogs started to assert their control.   Enjoying his best game of the season, Stuart produced a superb array of pinpoint kicks.  The veteran playmaker laid on a "triple-pump" dummy to several support-playeirs before hitting Darren Smith deep with a precision spiral pass.   Centre Talau charged off Smith and beat Brad Fittler's desperate cover to score.   Behind an out-gunned and tiring pack, Fittler tried in vain to match Stuart's kicking game, but with the sniff of victory in their nostrils, the 'Dogs lifted in defence.  They tackled like demons in the last 20 minutes, refusing to surrender their four-point buffer. The Bulldogs' swarming defence rolled in like monster breakers.   Their forwards hunted in twos and threes and clearly dominated the ruck.  The Roosters had several scoring chances but it was clear things were not going to go their way from the start.  Adrian Lam crossed in the first half, but Jack Elsegood's pass to Luke Ricketson in the lead-up was ruled forward.  Then, as the Roosters chased hard during the closing stages, a superb Fittler pass gave Richie Barnett a passage to the corner but the big Kiwi was denied by some desperate scrambling defence.  The four-man gang-tackle typified Canterbury's passion and commitment to the cause.   While failing to add to their total in the last 30 minutes, Canterbury finished strongly, and there seems no doubt that the familiar Bulldogs juggernaut has designs on another extended September journey.

Canterbury 12 (Bradley Clyde, Willie Talau tries; Daryl Halligan 2 goals) beat Sydney City 8 (Ivan Cleary try, 2 goals). Scrums: 6-all. Penalties: Sydney City 7-4. Crowd: 23,478. Goalkickers: Canterbury - Daryl Halligan 2 from 2. Sydney City - Ivan Cleary 2 from 3.

WHEN THEY SCORED: 8 min: Sydney City 2-0 (Ivan Cleary goal). 18 min: Canterbury 6-2 (Bradley Clyde try, Daryl Halligan goal). 37 min: Sydney City 8-6 (Ivan Cleary try, goal). 53 min: Canterbury 12-8 (Willie Talau try, Daryl Halligan goal).

INTERCHANGE: Canterbury - Barry Ward, Steve Reardon, Robert Relf, Glen Hughes. Sydney City - Shane Rigon, Dallas Hood, Nat Wood, Graham Appo

Semi Final: Bulldogs v Melbourne Storm Semi Final
Canterbury Bulldogs vs
Melbourne Storm
Sydney Football Stadium
Rugby League Week (Vol. 30, No. 32)

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Last updated 04 August 2000