St George Illawarra grabbed top position on the Telstra Premiership table once again but not before having to subdue a determined Bulldogs by just two points at ANZ Stadium on Monday.
Canterbury took the lead 16-14 in the 47th minute on the back of two quick tries. But then back-to-back penalties from Gareth Widdop put the Dragons back in front 18-16. And there the score remained despite the Belmore boys running themselves ragged to try and grab just their fourth win of the season.
No-one denied how hard the Bulldogs players toiled but ordinary finishes to some of their sets in the attacking zone were disappointing and ultimately their downfall.
A big run down the eastern touchline by winger Marcelo Montoya with just over three minutes left on the clock, brought the Bulldogs fans to their feet. But the move broke down.
Then with 90 seconds left a Josh Jackson grubber handed the Bulldogs another set to try to snatch the win. A knock-on by the Dragons as they tried to clean up a Matt Frawley kick near the uprights, gave the Bulldogs one play for an upset win.
Moses Mbye sent a corner kick from the right side of the field to the left to try to pick up Brett Morris. But that also failed to break the deadlock.
Match: Bulldogs v Dragons
Round 14 -
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney
One the unwanted players at Canterbury nest year, Morris was the man who had a hand in two tries within three minutes early in the second half that almost did enough damage to secure victory.
It may be have been the Queen's Birthday holiday but the Bulldogs winger was the one crowned in glory as his 15th placed Bulldogs bit the Dragons on the tail. Morris and his twin Josh are off contract and being let go by the Belmore club as it struggles to keep its roster under the salary cap.
But the Dragons were in no mood to suffer back-to-back losses for the first time this Telstra Premiership season, after the 28-2 humiliation at the hands of Penrith in round 12.
They had four players returning from Origin but they didn't look fatigued. Neither did David Klemmer for the Bulldogs either.
In the 44th minute Morris split them up the middle before passing to Mbye. In the next play Jackson kicked a right-foot grubber to the north-east corner where Will Hopoate pounced.
Then three minutes later and Morris missed the contest for the high ball with Kurt Mann. But after Mann then fumbled the regather, Morris grounded it on his hands and knees.
It was the most exciting passage of play for the Bulldogs, but they needed much more of that.
Three tries to one propelled the Dragons to a 14-6 halftime lead.
It took 16 minutes for the Bulldogs to get inside the Dragons 20-metre zone. By that time the visitors had already scored two tries up the other end through Euan Aitken and Tariq Sims.
The fact Widdop was a little off with his kicking meant the score line didn't look so disastrous at 8-0 after eight minutes.
But it only took a second excursion into the Dragons red zone before Bulldogs lock Adam Elliott merely waltzed through some uncharacteristic soft defence in the 17th minutes. A Mbye conversion and the score looked far more respectable with the home side trailing by only two, 8-6.
Then Nene Macdonald provided the finishing touch to another airborne wingers' try for his seventh of the year, despite Moses Mbye arriving in cover defence.
No-one really missed Kieran Foran, who is out for a few weeks with a torn toe ligament. Jeremy Marshall-King returned to the No.6 jersey alongside halfback Matt Frawley and the pair did ask a few questions of the Dragons defence.
News & Notes.... Jack De Belin, Ben Hunt, Tyson Frizell and Paul Vaughan backing up – but have had the most rest of any Origin players: 5 days....Cameron McInnes became the first to be penalised under the new rule of throwing the ball into an opposition player deliberately from dummy-half.... Paul McGregor coached his 100th NRL game... Ben Hunt played his 200th....Both teams have a short turn-around. The Bulldogs host the Titans at Belmore Oval on Saturday, while the Dragons face Manly in Wollongong the same day. Michael Lichaa passed his HIA early in the first half and returned to play on....Crowd: 21,376.