ROUND 22 - 2002

Date 10th Aug 2002
Venue Mt Smart Stadium
Coach Steve Folkes
Captain Steve Price
Referee Paul Simpkins
Crowd 21570
Bulldogs V Warriors
14 22
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Scorers

Player Tries Goals F Goals Points
Hazem El Masri 1 1 0 6
Matt Utai 1 0 0 4
Nigel Vagana 1 0 0 4

Match Review

An inspired performance from Warriors captain Stacey Jones ended the Bulldogs' 17-match unbeaten run last night and stamped the Aucklanders as possible 2002 premiers.

A refrain of Hallelujah, Hallelujah was played over the stadium public address system at full-time, but for the rest of the NRL it was a case of Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead as the unbeaten run stretching back to round two, when they drew with the Broncos, came to an end.

Jones coaxed every ounce of courage and skill out of his exciting team for them to lead 12-4 at half-time. And a rapturous crowd of 21,570 ensured the Dogs' comeback was a case of too little, too late.

The result means Eastern Suburbs' 1975 team continues to hold the record for wins in a single season with 19. It also means both the current NRL top two - the Dogs and Brisbane - have shown themselves vulnerable with losses in the last 48 hours.

The Warriors' half-time lead was hard fought, some opportunism in attack combined with rugged defence having the Dogs' purple patch in serious danger almost from the beginning.

The visitors looked confident early, halfback Brent Sherwin sending a raking kick to the right wing and centre Nigel Vagana racing through to claim what he thought to be a try just inside the touch-in goal-line.

Video referee Chris Ward watched Vagana's grounding of the ball repeatedly and could not tell if it was clean, so he referred the decision to match official Paul Simpkins, who awarded the try.

Winger Hazem El Masri just failed with a difficult conversion attempt.

The Warriors response came by virtue of a contentiously restarted tackle count, second-rower Ali Lauitiiti putting winger Francis Meli over in the left corner. Cleary's conversion brought up his double century of points for the season.

Cleary then managed a try for himself, taking a Logan Swann pass and diving over near the posts. His conversion made the margin eight points at the break.

Vagana found himself on report nine minutes into the second half when he chased a kick and caught Warriors fullback Brent Webb high.

Webb's replacement was David Myles, who was on for less than a minute when he scored his side's third try.

Skipper Stacey Jones kicked downfield and El Masri could not keep hold of the greasy ball as it rolled into the Bulldogs quarter.

Meli was on hand to pick it up and pass to Myles, who crossed in the left corner; Cleary missed with his conversion attempt but the Dogs were deeper in a hole at 16-4.

Seven minutes later, Cleary broke into space near halfway and sent a borderline pass to Myles, who sped towards the same corner in which he had just claimed his second try of the season.

This time he was tackled short and studiously avoided reaching out for the whitewash. Eventually, his momentum took him right to the edge of the paint - but Ward ruled he had not had control of the ball.

But the boos from the big crowd were short-lived.

Halfback Jones made a break, kicked ahead and then pinned Dogs winger Matt Utai in his own in-goal.

From the dropout, lock Kevin Campion, Jones and second-rower Awen Guttenbeil combined for replacement Wairangi Koopu to dive over. Clearly's conversion from close range gave the Warriors a 22-4 lead.

A one-on-one strip by rookie Jonathon Thurston on home-team centre John Carlaw gave the Belmore side a glimmer of hope; comeback prop Mark O'Meley picked up a loose ball and sent El Masri scampering over in the right corner for a touchdown he was unable to convert.

When Utai got another consolation try with 3 minutes to go, El Masri did land the kick but the margin was still too great for the comeback kings.

Before kick-off, both sides made significant late changes, Warriors centre Clinton Toopi was ruled out with a hamstring injury and replaced by Webb. Dogs coach Steve Folkes decided not to start with rookie Thurston, instead putting the experienced Tony Grimaldi in his 13.

Source: www.smh.com.au

Data provided by Clint Crofts