Bulldogs 42 Roosters 10
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Sydney Roosters
Jono Wright gets tackled by the Roosters. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Des Hasler now has a minor premiership to go with his two major ones. His reward - a blockbuster clash against the team he defected from. The minor premiers will take on the defending premiers, Manly, in the opening week of the finals. We will soon find out if his controversial move from Brookvale to Belmore was the right one.
Acting ARL Commission boss Shane Mattiske presented the J.J. Giltinan Shield to the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium for the first time since 1994. That, and a $100,000 cheque, is their reward for their efforts thus far. But the stakes are about to be raised much higher.
Had the Bulldogs lost and Melbourne done a number on Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, the Shield would have travelled south. But after a seeing off a mini Roosters revival midway through first half, the Dogs totally dominated. One of the best things about the new finals system is that Manly and Canterbury could conceivably meet for a fourth time in 2012 - the grand final.
Meanwhile, Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello has again been placed on report for a high challenge on the opposing No.1.
The game was only 45 seconds old when Ben Barba - who else? - set up the opening try, for Josh Morris. It set the tone for proceedings. But it wasn't the flashy fullback's finest moment. That came in the 54th minute when, chasing down a Josh Reynolds grubber, he grounded the football centimetres within the in-goal line. It seems pointless waiting until Tuesday night to hand him the Dally M Medal. The Dogs scored seven tries, promising forward Josh Jackson bagging three of them. However, the best of the night was a Kris Keating effort which involved half a dozen sets of hands, including a brilliant interchange of passes from some of the biggest boppers in the game.
WHAT THEY SAID
Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis: ''Part of me is really pleased. It's a good pat on the back, but it's nothing more than that to be honest. I've been around footy now and seen all circumstances with minor premierships. It's a pat on the back but certainly not the goal we're after.''
Roosters coach Brian Smith:
''I'd like to congratulate them. They've set at an extremely high standard this year, the Bulldogs. Consistency, that's for sure. It's not an easy thing to do. I'd like to congratulate Des and everyone at the Bulldogs this year. They've done it at every level as well.''
WHAT THE GAME MEANS FOR THE BULLDOGS
Canterbury-Bankstown have finished the regular season on top of the table in all three grades. The effort is all the more remarkable given that, a couple of opportunist mid-season signings aside, it was achieved with largely the same NRL squad that missed out on the play-offs last year.
WHAT THE GAME MEANS FOR THE ROOSTERS
This game was representative of their season, which they will now have six months to reflect on. The Tri-colours will desperately be hoping that Sonny Bill Williams's word is worth more than the last rugby league contract he was on. The Clovelly Hotel may wish to beef up security for what could be a very Mad Monday.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Bali or Bangkok? Vegas or Vanuatu? These are the big questions the Chooks will be asking themselves as they plan for their end-of-season trip. The Bulldogs have a different destination in mind. They have earned the right to another game at their home, ANZ Stadium, in September. The Sea Eagles are arguably the form side but will hold no surprises for Hasler as he prepares his troops this week.
BULLDOGS 42 (J Jackson 3 B Barba K Keating J Morris F Pritchard tries K Inu 7 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 10 (A Minichiello T Moga tries B Anasta goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Jared Maxwell. Crowd: 23,391.