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Crichton's captain's knock inspires Bulldogs to brave comeback win over Parra - but it comes at a big cost

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10th June, 2024
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Canterbury captain Stephen Crichton lifted his team to a spirited 22-18 comeback win over the Eels, but the Dogs walked away wounded with a long injury list.

Accor Stadium was abuzz with more than 45,000 fans in full voice for the ‘battle of the West’ contest between the bitter traditional rivales.

It was a showcase of cracking tries and running rugby league, although the match started with a pile of offside penalties against both sides.

The Eels led 12-10 at the half and showed no signs of slowing down in the second, with Kelma Tuilagi reaping the rewards of a Dylan Brown short ball.

Parramatta seemed to be gripping on to an 18-10 lead, but the Bulldogs right edge lit up the final quarter of the match, taking back the lead and then some, through the brilliance of Crichton.

“We just had Terry Lamb in there and he said that’s one of the gutsiest (wins)” Cameron Ciraldo said post game.

“The man he (Crichton) has turned into is incredible. His influence on our team is undeniable. Without him there tonight, I don’t think that result happens.”

Blaize Talagi was the first on the try-scorer list, linking up with Clint Gutherson on the right edge to further his promise as a young star. His speed and step adds another string to Parramatta’s attack, freeing up space for Mitchell Moses.

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Stephen Crichton of the Bulldogs celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 14 NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium, on June 10, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Stephen Crichton of the Bulldogs celebrates with team mates after scoring a try (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

A wayward short-side pass from Bryce Cartwright gifted the Dogs a prime opportunity, which Stephen Crichton pounced on after connecting with high work-rate fullback Connor Tracey.

From kick-off to full-time, it was nothing short of a crazy 80 minutes, with the will of a tough Bulldogs outfit eventually giving the Eels the slip.

Injury pile-on for the Dogs

Bulldogs utility Bailey Hayward was removed from the game early, unfortunately finding the hip of Reagan Campbell-Gillard in a nasty head knock.

Josh Curran later joined the casualty ward in a similar manner but was not able to leave unassisted – the former Warriors forward was helped off the field by the medicab.

Joe Ofahengaue was all class after the blow, staying with Curran until the medicab was cleared to leave.

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“Bailey Hayward and Josh Curran both had concussions,” Ciraldo said.

“We’ve got the bye week so we’ll be able to rest up.”

“The fact he (Preston) couldn’t walk off the field was not a good sign. Xerri also had a problem with his hamstring.”

Dogs diehard Jacob Preston left the field in the 70th minute after twisting his ankle badly after he was tackled on suspicion by Daejarn Asi.

Fox League sideline journalist Lara Pitt said “the Bulldogs fear Preston has a suspected broken ankle”.

Preston has been a staple for Canterbury over the year and was fast turning from a rookie to a top-tier second-rower.

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Despite having chances in the final 10, the Eels were their own worst enemy, failing to close out sets and forcing errors.

Burton leads with his booming boot

Blues extended bencher Matt Burton put his destructive boot in the game early, giving Canterbury vital breathing space from their own half, before putting up an absolute missile which bamboozled Gutherson.

Late in the first half the talented No.6 hoisted a weapon bomb, that spiralled into the oblivion and came down to haunt Gutherson – who found nothing but air as the pill rolled to an unmarked Blake Wilson who strolled over. However, the highlight reel try was disallowed after a chaser was caught off-side.

oe Ofahengaue of the Eels checks on Josh Curran of the Bulldogs during the round 14 NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium, on June 10, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
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Joe Ofahengaue of the Eels checks on Josh Curran. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)[/caption]

Crichton scored two tries and set up a ripper for Wilson, doing his best to one-up the vintage Joseph Manu offload.

“The boys are gelling well and we have got that culture,” Crichton said. “To be more resilient. This year we want to be stronger and keep throwing punches.”

Tracey used his speed on the outside of Gutherson in the 75th minute to find Wilson by his side, who went over for his second try.

The former Sharks utility contributed to three tries, had two line-breaks and two line-break assists. Talk about a night out.

Mann crushed to the bin

Kurt Mann lost his temper, putting pressure on the neck of Will Penisini after the tackle was almost completed – sent to the sin-bin in the 56th minute in what was a pretty easy call.

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Fox League analyst Greg Alexander applauded the decision to banish Mann to the bin.

“No question about that. I thought we had gotten rid of that intentional crusher from our game. That is the one that we want stamped out.”

The Eels were unable to capitalise on the overlap, wasting the next 10 minute period with a flurry of errors.

Post game Parramatta’s interim coach Trent Barrett was honest in saying his team beat themselves. Barrett also noted Maroons interchange lock J’Maine Hopgood should’ve stayed on the sidelines due to never damage concerns.

“In hindsight he shouldn’t have played,” Barrett said.

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