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New boys lead the way for Bulldogs

By Steve Jancetic 14/03/2011 11:44:42 PM Comments (0)

All eyes were on Benji Marshall but it was fellow Kiwi Frank Pritchard who stole the show as Canterbury's aggressive off-season recruitment drive paid immediate dividends in the Bulldogs' 24-14 NRL win over Wests Tigers on Monday night.

Pritchard showed just why he was seen as one of the best signings of the off-season, with his bullocking second half try putting the Bulldogs ahead 12-8 for a lead they would never relinquish.

Fellow Bulldogs newcomer Kris Keating extended the lead with a runaway try 16 minutes from fulltime to the delight of the blue and white faithful in the 26,737-strong crowd - a total which helped set a NRL record for attendance in any round of 201,212 spectators.

Marshall, playing for the first time since being charged with assault following a early morning incident outside a Sydney McDonald's outlet just over a week ago, showed little effect from what had been a drama-filled week as he carried the Tigers to within sight of victory.

After laying on terrific passes for Lote Tuqiri and Chris Lawrence to score either side of halftime to give the visitors an 8-6 lead, Marshall danced past three defenders to score under the posts 11 minutes from time.

But it was yet another prized Bulldogs recruit who made sure of the first-up win, with former Manly halfback Trent Hodkinson delivering a millimetre perfect grubber for Steve Turner to score four minutes from time.

It took until just short of the half hour for the game's first points but it proved to be well worth the wait with Josh Morris racing 95 metres to score a scintillating try after a shocking attempted tackle by Liam Fulton close to the Bulldogs line.

The Tigers hit back when Marshall delivered a sublime cut-out pass for Tuqiri to cross out wide, though his attempt at a repeat just after the break found the sideline instead of the dreadlocked winger.

A high tackle penalty against Pritchard gave the Tigers another shot which Marshall converted when he found Lawrence with a short ball before Pritchard steamrolled over a helpless Chris Heighington to put the hosts back in front.

Bulldogs centre Jamal Idris, who threw off defenders with frightening regularity, praised the togetherness of the new-look side as they showed little sign of unfamiliarity.

"I'm not surprised (by how well we gelled)," Idris said.

"(We're) like a bunch of brothers playing out there, we need to bust our arses for each other, and it showed on the field.

Despite having a hand in all three Tigers tries, coach Tim Sheens claimed Marshall had a "hot and cold" performance alongside an indifferent Lui.

"He'd be disappointed in a few of the things he did," Sheens said.

"Second half he tried too hard but the focus isn't on Benji particularly.

"Between the seven (Lui) and the six we could be better, we need to be."

The only downside for the Bulldogs was a suspected torn posterior medial ligament which forced Morris from the field shortly after Keating's try.

"It feels alright, I could have stayed on there," said Morris, who is facing a month on the sidelines if scans detect a tear.

"We've got to get scans tomorrow so I'm not sure yet, it feels alright so hopefully we get some positive news."

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