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Dogs dodge late comeback

The Bulldogs survived a late comeback from the Dolphins to claim a 23-22 win on Sunday afternoon in Bundaberg.

Up 23-18 with two minutes to play, the Bulldogs leaked a try to Anthony Milford and had to watch nervously as Jamayne Isaako – the NRL’s leading point scorer – pushed what would have been the game-winning conversion across the face of the posts from out wide.

In the end it was a Matt Burton field goal in the final minute of the first half, which had appeared strange at the time given it stretched his side’s lead to three points, which was the difference and gave Canterbury-Bankstown their seventh win of the year.

It means the Bulldogs pull further clear of the Wests Tigers at the bottom of the ladder, ahead of a bye in Round 23, while for the Dolphins the result may have killed off their faint hopes of making the top eight in their inaugural season.

Boosted by the return of five frontline players, the Bulldogs overcame an early eight-point deficit which came via a penalty goal and converted try from Isaako.

Star off-season recruit Viliame Kikau made a noticeable difference in his first game back from a pectoral injury which had sidelined him since Round 4, scoring his side’s first try and adding some much-needed variety to the Bulldogs’ attack.

After Kikau crashed over and centre Braidon Burns – himself back from time out injured, torched his marker down the left – the Dogs had a two-point advantage, with Burton’s field goal making it 11-8 at the break.

After missing out on a potential try when Jacob Preston fired a wayward pass at him following a line break early in the second half, Jake Averillo got over in the 53rd minute to stretch the lead to nine.

But it was quickly cancelled out by a strike from Anthony Milford, whose 56th minute effort was followed up by a barnstorming run from Valynce Te Whare that saw him reach out and add a third for his side.

What could have been the game-deciding try from Isaako was rubbed out for obstruction in the lead up and instead the Bulldogs went down the other end and sent Blake Wilson over for the ninth try of his rookie season.

The game remained in the balance right up until the flags stayed down on Isaako’s conversion in the dying seconds, after Kodi Nikorima put Milford over for his second out wide.