The Bulldogs have kept up their winning streak and extended their lead at the top of the NRL ladder after beating the Warriors 16-12 in Hamilton on Sunday.
The Warriors made their traditional late comeback and almost stole it at the end, but poor handling cost them dearly as they were made to defend for long periods and were never allowed to get into any rhythm on attack.
Heroic tackle denies Warriors last-gasp win in Waikato
Josh Morris took down a flying Shaun Johnson with three minutes to go to seal the Bulldogs seventh straight win.
In the third NRL match played at Waikato Stadium, after the Parramatta Eels hosted the Warriors in 2005 and 2006, the Warriors again came up short.
Although it was a Bulldogs home game, the majority of the 17,673 fans went home disappointed.
They nearly left ecstatic, after Shaun Johnson broke through in the dying stages and seared down the right-hand touch, pinning his ears back for the corner instead of looking for Sam Tomkins inside, but a brilliant desperate leaping tackle from Josh Morris put him across the sideline.
With one minute and 19 seconds remaining, the Warriors had a scrum feed 20 metres out in the centre of the ground, but on the last tackle Simon Mannering tried to flick the ball on and it went forward.
The Warriors opened the scoring in the 13th minute, when Ben Matulino charged onto a ball from Nathan Friend out of dummy half, doing well to get the ball down.
From there, the Warriors created plenty of momentum, with the Bulldogs guilty of handing them some decent field position.
But then it was the Dogs’ turn to dominate, camping inside the visitors’ half for much of the rest of the first stanza.
Dropped balls from Manu Vatuvei, Mannering and Sione Lousi – who had also dropped one when warming up minutes earlier – meant there was plenty of defence to do (the Warriors made 32 more tackles in the first half than the Dogs).
Tomkins looked to be targeted physically, with his England teammate James Graham lashing out and causing everyone to come in, then Josh Reynolds was fortunate not to be penalised when he charged into the fullback and halted his quick return to the 20-metre line for a tap.
The Dogs eventually struck in the 30th minute when Sam Kasiano gave a beautiful cut out pass to put Mitch Brown over in the left corner. Super boot Trent Hodkinson couldn’t convert and the Warriors stayed 6-4 in front through to half-time, surviving a repeat set after Williams showed a nice deft kick.
But with better ball security surely a priority for the players in the second stanza, Ngani Laumape dropped a ball cold on their second set and the Bulldogs pounced straight away, with Hodkinson putting James Graham over.
Just minutes later, the Warriors lost Konrad Hurrell up the tunnel for a concussion check after his head collided with Graham’s arm.
Then things got worse on the scoreboard, with the Bulldogs crossing in the 52nd minute after they did well to keep the ball alive.
Reynolds kicked across for Chase Stanley and Vatuvei hammered him with a massive shot, but the ball was shifted to Tim Lafai, who tossed inside to Sam Perrett, and just as it looked like Tomkins had him wrapped up, Perrett found Greg Eastwood to finish the job.
Hurrell returned and the Warriors survived a repeat set, but their execution on attack was lacking, with Vatuvei put away but shunted into touch, then a Johnson cut-out ball flew over the head of Laumape.
When Kevin Locke was penalised for slowing down the tackle, Hodkinson slotted the two to make it 16-6 with 12½ minutes to play.
The Warriors continued to threaten but fumbles kept coming. However, with six minutes to play, Ben Henry went over in the left corner, and Johnson’s conversion made for a grandstand finish, with the crowd roaring the Warriors chant.
However, it was not to be.