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Canterbury 23 Manly 16
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Canterbury Bulldogs score win for the true believers over Manly Sea Eagles

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As it happened: Bulldogs v Sea Eagles

With the Hillsong conference on next door at Allphones Arena, there was no shortage of belief around Homebush on Friday night.

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Bulldogs upset Sea Eagles

The Bulldogs have landed an upset over the Sea Eagles, defeating the ladder leaders 23-16

Canterbury have plenty of it themselves after an against-the-odds win over NRL pacesetters Manly in which Tony Williams had a starring role in the most unlikely of positions.

Missing his State of Origin halves pair, Des Hasler produced a wild card by shifting the giant Williams to halfback, and the experiment worked in front of a crowd of 14,921 at ANZ Stadium.

Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis and English prop James Graham were also outstanding for the Bulldogs, Ennis sealing the result with a late field goal then an opportunistic try at the death.

It was a first loss in four games for a disappointing Manly, who could have gone four points clear at the top of the premiership, but are now ahead of a rejuvenated Canterbury on points difference.


With the numbers on their backs all but irrelevant, the Bulldogs opted for size over subtlety, with the often-maligned Williams, having one of his best games in a blue-and-white jersey, pulling the strings.

Not a complete novice in the halves, Williams had in fact been man of the match with a No.6 on his back in a Queensland Cup final a few years back, turning out for Manly's feeder team on the Sunshine Coast.

Given the keys to the Bulldogs' back line by Hasler, Williams put the foot down and ran the ball regularly, as a player of 118kg might be expected to do, but he also showed some of the skills that made him a junior playmaker before the scales sent him inevitably into the forwards.

A floating cut-out ball to winger Drury Low showed an early sign of innovation and there was a payoff close to half-time when he threw the final pass in a try to Krisnan Inu that saw Canterbury take a 12-6 lead at the break.

The Bulldogs had gained an unlikely ascendancy through sheer grunt. They lost prop Aiden Tolman after only seven minutes when he reinjured a hamstring in his first game back from injury, but following the lead of tireless front-row pair Graham and Tim Browne, the Bulldogs aimed up in defence and had Geoff Toovey's men on the back foot.

Taking a straightforward approach in the absence of State of Origin duo Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson, the drama for Canterbury was always going to be applying finesse to the brute force. They had looked rudderless with Ennis filling in at halfback against Parramatta last month and there were the expected shortcomings in their last-tackle options again on Friday night.

Ennis, however, managed to produce a result from a snarling grubber kick in the 53rd minute after Manly second-gamer Clinton Gutherson hit back for the Sea Eagles soon after the break.

Brett Stewart, who had laid on the young winger's try with a lovely cut-out pass, was caught under the spell of the awkwardly rolling ball and zippy Bulldogs winger Corey Thompson pounced.

Stewart's opposing fullback, Mitch Brown, would have his own issues at the back, though, spilling a Jack Littlejohn kick that allowed Justin Horo to square the scoreline with 20 minutes remaining.

The Bulldogs would not be denied, though, with Ennis nosing them in front, then capitalising on a Williams kick to score under the posts despite a clearly forward pass by Browne.