ROUND 24 - 2002

Date 25th Aug 2002
Venue Canberra Stadium
Coach Steve Folkes
Captain Steve Price
Referee Shayne Hayne
Crowd 13751
Bulldogs V Raiders
34 38
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Player Tries Goals F Goals Points
Hazem El Masri 1 5 0 14
Nigel Vagana 3 0 0 12
Luke Patten 1 0 0 4
Matt Utai 1 0 0 4

Match Review

The Bulldogs' salary cap scandal was always likely to have one of two effects - steeling the players' resolve to smash Canberra or distracting them from the task at hand yesterday.

In the end it did a bit of both.

At the end of the most tumultuous week in the club's 68-year history, the Bulldogs found themselves 18-0 down after 15 minutes.

They regrouped, staged a typically gritty fightback, then lost 38-34. They had been buoyed by a huge turnout of Bulldogs fans who made the journey to Canberra Stadium to back them in their darkest period.

Captain Steve Price admitted the week's events had taken a toll on their early performance but said the spirit shown in the comeback was indicative of what they intended to produce in their two remaining but meaningless matches.

With nothing to play for except pride, having had 37 competition points deducted last Friday, the former competition leader did not lie down.

The Raiders are among those who stand to gain most from the Bulldogs' situation and had incensed the visitors midweek when captain Simon Woolford called for them to be thrown out of the competition immediately.

Now they are in ninth spot, but equal on 23 points with St George Illawarra and Melbourne, which are both inside the top eight.

Canberra coach Matt Elliott said: "We've now got to prepare to win next week and if we don't do that it will make it fairly difficult for us to make the eight."

Early tries by Ryan O'Hara, Ruben Wiki and Mark McLinden came through a defence uncharacteristic of the Bulldogs' charge to the top of the table. Their precision kicking game finally clicked into gear in the 21st-minute to produce a try for winger Hazem El Masri but the reduced margin was only fleeting.

O'Hara picked up a rare front-rower's try-scoring double minutes later, before Darren Mapp again made the defence look ordinary to give the Raiders a 28-6 lead.

Bulldogs centre Nigel Vagana scored his 19th try of the season four minutes from half-time to leave his team trailing 28-10 at the break. Full-back Luke Patten scored 40 seconds after play resumed and then front-rower Paul Rauhihi put winger Matt Utai over the line in the 47th minute, to bring the Bulldogs within six.

A 51st minute Raiders try by Todd Payten gave them vital breathing space at 34-22 but the Bulldogs weren't finished.

Vagana added another two four-pointers, as they closed to 36-34 with 15 minutes left.

Source: AAP

Data provided by Clint Crofts