Canterbury 23 South Sydney 18
Try time ... Justin Hunt of the Rabbitohs touches down. Photo: Getty Images
This could just be the best $50,000 Canterbury have ever spent. Krisnan Inu has done some of the most freakish things ever seen on a football field but, until last night, a match-winning field goal wasn't one of them. ''He has now,'' said Bulldogs coach Des Hasler afterwards.
Asked if his newest recruit had even kicked one in training, Hasler, also in rare form, replied: ''He can kick them blindfolded.''
Unstoppable ... Ben Barba drops the shoulder. Photo: Anthony Johnson
At times Inu, perhaps the most enigmatic man in the NRL, looks like he's playing blindfolded as well. That has changed since joining Canterbury. The former Warrior followed up his man-of-the-match debut for the club last week with another pearler. His effort to break an 18-all deadlock, from 32 metres out, put the Bulldogs in front. His final try assist, to David Stagg, ensured they stayed there.
But why, with one of the biggest games of the year on the line, would hooker Michael Ennis throw the ball to a newbie who had never slotted one between the posts?
''Message,'' Ennis said. ''I'd been talking to Krissy Keating about it, he'd been [goal] kicking well through the night and I tried to lay that right post for him. The message came out and I thought he hits them alright, so we went with Krisnan and he hit it good. It was an important play.''
NRL Bulldogs v Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium Homebush
Sam Kasiano palms off the defence. Photo: Anthony Johnson
But it wasn't the only one.
Souths flyer Dylan Farrell looked certain to snatch the game when he streaked towards the tryline. Ben Barba, better known for scoring tries rather than saving them, pulled off a tackle that was equal parts Sing and Sattler. A trysaver for the ages. ''It was special,'' Hasler said. ''It's a big part of his game he's worked on. It's a real intelligent play from Benny and one that we needed.''
As a result the Bulldogs leapfrog the Bunnies into second spot. Based on what both teams showed last night, they may well meet for a third time in 2012.
There was drama even before kick-off. Leichhardt-bound Rabbitohs forward Eddy Pettybourne didn't survive the warm-up and was assisted off with a leg injury, replaced by Chris McQueen. The Dogs had injury problems of their own, but at least those were sustained during the match itself. Frank Pritchard limped off with an ankle injury in the 18th minute and took no further part, although Hasler believes he will be right for the next match. Another Kiwi forward, Greg Eastwood didn't make it to the starting line, while Sam Kasiano persevered with a hamstring problem. Tim Lafai suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder in the final minutes.
While there were many highlights - including David Taylor pulling ahead of Greg Inglis on the try scorers list - it will be best remembered for Inu's contribution. Having bounced between Test football and NSW Cup, the amiable three-quarter finished with 11 points to almost beat the Bunnies himself. He joked that former Eels teammate Nathan Cayless - who once slotted an even more unlikely one-pointer - won't be able to hold it over him any more.
''First one I tried. One from one so far,'' he said. ''I'll be getting up Cayless, he's been at me since my debut.''
BULLDOGS 23 (B Barba K Inu D Stagg J Wright tries K Inu 3 goals K Inu field goal) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 18 (D Farrell J Hunt D Taylor tries A Reynolds 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gavin Morris, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 19,439.