The Bulldogs have produced a gutsy performance to upset ladder leaders Manly 23-16 at ANZ stadium on Friday night.
The shock loss still has Manly placed at the top of the ladder, but with several teams biting at their tails, the loss is a costly one.
Origin duties, injuries and suspensions meant that both teams went into the match heavily understrength. Manly, without Daly Cherry-Evans, Anthony Watmough and Jorge Taufua - who was a late withdrawal with an ankle strain – found themselves trailing at half time much to the surprise of many experts.
Without their Origin halves duo in Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson, Canterbury’s Tony William’s stepped into the void at half back as he almost put Sam Kasiano over inside 15 minutes, only for the try to be controversially overturned following several looks from upstairs.
The video referee ruled that Kasiano’s right hand had made contact with the dead ball line before grounding the ball.
Despite dominating the early stages of the match, the Bulldogs were unable to capitalise as they lacked the finishing touches needed to get over the line.
The Sea Eagles took full advantage of a penalty awarded for a shoulder charge and marched up field to open the game’s account. Manly’s Dunamis Lui on the end of a deft pass from Hooker Ballin who sent the forward over for his first try in Sea Eagles colours.
The Sea Eagles were expected to role over the Bulldogs, but the home side produced a wholehearted first half to take a 12-6 lead courtesy of tries to James Graham and Krisnan Inu.
Making his first NRL appearance since debuting last year, Clinton Gutherson crossed for Manly, but their joy would be short lived as the Bulldogs hit straight back with a try of their own to Corey Thompson,
Down by six, Justin Horo found a way over the line to lock the scores up at 16-all.
With 20 minutes remaining, field goal was on the agenda. It was the Bulldogs who slotted the one-pointer through skipper Michael Ennis.
Sea Eagles fullback had Manly’s only field goal attempt, but it was charged down as the Bulldogs scored late to ensure the win.