Despite their positions in the ladder, not much separated Canterbury Bulldogs and New Zealand Warriors as they met at ANZ Stadium, with the home side looking to get off the bottom of the table.
The Bulldogs were the better of the two sides in the opening stages, with a number of errors being made by the Warriors putting the home side in good attacking field position.
However, it was a mistake from Reimis Smith than nearly gifted the Warriors the first try.
The winger looked to pass back to Will Hopoate inside his own in-goal area but the pass was horrid and the Bulldogs were fortunate the chasing Paul Turner couldn’t quite ground the loose ball.
In the 15th minute, Canterbury turned on the style as they shifted the ball out to Nick Meaney on the left touchline, he passed it back inside to Tim Lafai, who ended up being pushed back towards to touchline.
Lafai then flicked the ball out the back of his hands back to a surprised Meaney, but the winger refocused to beat the tackle of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Karl Lawton and score the first try of the game.
In the very next set, the Bulldogs picked up back-to-back tries as Jeremy Marshall-King ran the ball from dummy-half on the half-way line and broke through the Warriors line.
With just Tuivasa-Sheck to beat, he passed to Kieran Foran in support and the half-back raced under the posts to score.
On the half-hour mark, it looked as though the Warriors had hit back.
Kodi Nikorima kicked crossfield on the last tackle and Jack Murchie claimed the ball above a number of other players and dropped over the line to score for his first career try.
The remaining ten minutes of the half were scrappy as both sides struggled to get a grip on the game.
HALF-TIME: Canterbury Bulldogs 10-6 New Zealand Warriors
Just four minutes into the second half, Jack Cogger than the ball right to the Warriors defence line and dropped the ball off to Will Hopaote just off his right shoulder and the full-back raced through the gap and into the corner to extend his sides lead.
The Bulldogs dropped off in defence a few minutes later as Jack Murchie flicked a pass out the back to Lafai, to create a 2-on-1 out of nowhere, and then the centre released Adam Pompey who raced 35-metres to score.
The Warriors were level in their very next set as Nikorima beat Foran on the outside which created a four-on-one against Hopoate, and the half-back got the ball the Murchie to level the scores.
Nikorima converted to make it 14-16 with just under half an hour to go.
The visitors looked to extend their lead further a couple of minutes later and Paul Turner made a break and stretched over the line, however, after tripping he knocked the ball on over the line and let the Bulldogs off the hook.
Turner made up for his handling error a few minutes later as he cut back inside and found a huge gap and beat the tackle of Jack Cogger to score.
Unfortunately, Cogger was taken away from Turner by Isaiah Papali’i and the debutant was denied once again.
The Warriors were in the mood for scoring and after knocking on the door, finally extended their lead further.
Nikorima stood up in the tackle of Foran and offloaded to Tuivasa-Sheck who showed speed to cross in the corner for a six-point lead.
With ten minutes to go, the Bulldogs knew the game was still there for them to win, but a huge tackle from Hayze Perham on Cogger kept the scores at 14-20.
With just under two minutes to go, Nikorima looked to wrap up the game for the Warriors but his field-goal attempt was hooked wide, and the Bulldogs still looked to level up late.
Lafai had the ball on the left-edge but another flick pass from the centre found the deck and the Warriors held on to leave Canterbury languishing at the bottom of the table.
FULL-TIME: Canterbury Bulldogs 14-20 New Zealand Warriors
Hopoate, Meaney, Lafai, Holland, Smith, Foran, Cogger, Ogden, Marshall-King, Tolman, Doorey, Faitala-Mariner, Jackson
Interchanges: Katoa, Thompson, Sue, Averillo
Tries: Meaney, Foran, Hopoate
Goals: Meaney (1/3)
New Zealand Warriors
Tuivasa-Sheck, Pompey, Perham, Hiku, Jennings, Nikorima, Turner, Taunoa-Brown, Lawton, Burr, Papali’i, Harris, Tevaga
Interchanges: Egan, Blair, Alvaro, Murchie
Tries: Murchie (2), Pompey, Tuivasa-Sheck
Goals: Nikorima (2/4)
Referee: P. Gough
Touch Judges: G. Badger, H. Perenara
Video Referee: B. Lowe
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)