They botched another chance to claw their way off the bottom of the ladder – and briefly divert attention from their chaotic football and leagues club committees – after throwing away an early 10-point lead to lose 32-20 to Manly at ANZ Stadium.
Brenda Hopoate cheered even though one of her sons lost, and most in the cavernous stadium heard her. The official crowd was posted at 2151, half of them Hopoates. Bulldogs fans can vote too it seems, with their feet.
Perhaps no one is enjoying Belmore’s off-field brawling more than the Broncos, who keep getting saved from last spot on the ladder by Canterbury’s ability not to win on it.
Asked whether the off-field drama was affecting their form, caretaker coach Steve Georgallis said: “Subconsciously it may play a part, but the players are focused on football and playing on the field. You can use it as an excuse, but it’s no excuse for the amount of tackles we missed in the second half.”
Des Hasler’s 250th NRL game in charge of Manly came with little fuss, even if it was against his old club, owing to the lowly ladder positions of both teams. Yet it could be argued he left the Bulldogs in a better state than they’re in now, which is saying something.
At one point Manly centre Morgan Harper, who the Bulldogs let go only a couple of months ago, stopped, propped and then swerved his way through the defence for a crucial second-half try, one which hurt Georgallis more than most. He had Harper as part of the Canterbury Cup-winning side in 2018.
“They enjoyed [the team song],” Hasler said after his side snapped a six-match winless streak despite losing Cade Cust and Addin Fonua-Blake to further injuries in the second half. “It’s been too long.
“It’s a great honour [to be in charge for 250 games] and I’ve said many times I think it’s a privilege to be involved in the NRL. I don’t mean that as a throwaway line. It’s a wonderful game.”
Harper’s try played a large part in the Sea Eagles winning for the first time at ANZ Stadium since 2013, when they beat the Rabbitohs in the grand final qualifier. They lost the next week to the Roosters and had to wait seven years and 12 games to win at the Olympic stadium again.
Canterbury’s future didn’t look as bleak when inside the first six minutes Jake Averillo, filling in at five-eighth, a spot Kieran Foran will vacate next year, flicked a pass to fellow rookie Matt Doorey to set up the first try.
Averillo set up Canterbury’s next try with a neat kick for No.7 Lachlan Lewis, the only problem being the Sea Eagles had peeled off four of their own in between either side of half-time with Daly Cherry-Evans pulling the strings and his opposite number struggling to hold the ball.
And how low could Canterbury’s week get? Well, Sea Eagles prop Martin Taupau kicked for himself – and regathered after Lewis fumbled again – to score 10 minutes from time. It was the weirdest thing all night.
Even Canterbury’s directors could have agreed on that.
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES 32 (Taniela Paseka, Curtis Sironen, Brad Parker, Jack Gosiewski, Morgan Harper, Martin Taupau tries; Daly Cherry-Evans 4 goals) defeated CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS 20 (Matt Doorey, Lachlan Lewis, Jayden Okunbor tries; Nick Meaney 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Matt Noyen. Crowd: 2151.
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Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.