Concussions, two drug-ban returns as Dogs down Roosters

Scott Bailey |

Bronson Xerri’s five-year wait for another NRL game will come to an end against the Roosters.
Bronson Xerri’s five-year wait for another NRL game will come to an end against the Roosters.

Four stars were knocked out, two returned from drug bans and one was sent off as Canterbury held off a Sydney Roosters comeback for the ages to win 30-26 at Accor Stadium.

On the most dramatic night of the season so far, the Bulldogs produced their best half in eight years to lead 26-0 before they were almost mown down by the Roosters.

With only 11 men left on the field, the Tri-colours got themselves to within four points as the clock ticked down, but the Bulldogs held on for victory.

James Tedesco is concussed against Canterbury.
James Tedesco was one of four players concussed on a wild night at Accor Stadium. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS)

Had the Roosters pulled off an unlikely win it would have equalled the record for the largest comeback in NRL history.

Canterbury’s triumph, which included a Matt Burton hat-trick in front of 7169 fans who braved Sydney’s driving rain, was only part of the story.

Roosters star and Australia Test captain James Tedesco was knocked out in the first half by a rampaging Viliame Kikau, moments after halfback Sam Walker was concussed by a stray leg.

Dom Young is another Rooster unlikely to be facing Newcastle on Thursday, after being sent off for a high shot that floored Bulldogs fullback Blake Taaffe during an incident-packed first half.

Victor Radley could also face suspension, after ending the game in the sin bin for a hip-drop tackle on Stephen Crichton.

The first-half concussions prompted the Roosters to utilise 18th man Michael Jennings in his return from a three-year ban for steroid use.

Suspended in the middle of Parramatta’s 2020 finals series, the 35-year-old’s career appeared over before he was picked up by the Roosters during the summer.

The former Kangaroos Test centre’s return came on the same night the Bulldogs’ Bronson Xerri made his comeback from a four-year drugs ban.

The Dogs dominated the opening half from the outset, with Reed Mahoney forcing an error from Young in the second tackle of the match.

Taaffe crossed untouched from the resultant scrum, before Matt Burton made it 12-0 after 10 minutes.

Dom Young (right) is sent off for Sydney Roosters.
Dom Young (right) was sent off for a high shot that floored Bulldogs fullback Blake Taaffe. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS)

Kikau was particularly damaging down the left edge, busting seven tackles and running 149 metres in the first half as he skittled Roosters players.

He put Burton over from one of his long busts, before Tedesco’s concussion stopped the Bulldogs from crossing for another.

With Young sent off in the 27th minute and the Bulldogs holding a 26-0 halftime lead, Canterbury were unbackable favourites.

But somehow the match swung, the Roosters piling on four tries in an 11-minute period after the break.

Luke Keary put Egan Butcher over for their first, before Naufahu Whyte barged across.

Butcher crossed again when Jacob Kiraz made a meal of a Keary bomb, and when Joey Manu went over off the back of lead up play from Keary and Angus Crichton it was 26-20.

The Roosters’ momentum was halted when Bulldogs prop Harrison Edwards was concussed trying to tackle Whyte.

Brandon Smith threw a forward pass out of dummy-half in the next set, allowing Burton to get his third after the scrum and make it 30-20.

Daniel Tupou crossed late for the Roosters, but their comeback ran out of puff at the end of a breathless match.

“We’re pretty embarrassed and disappointed by our effort,” Keary said.

“To turn up like that … is not good enough. We need to have a good look at ourselves.”

Canterbury too, have some pieces to pick up.

Taaffe was feeling OK in the sheds after but will miss the Melbourne clash, as will Edwards with the Dogs more concerned about a neck injury than concussion.

Kurt Mann played through 60 minutes with a broken hand, Connor Tracey battled a calf issue and Chris Patolo suffered a shoulder injury early.

“That was a weird one,” Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo said. 

“The first 30 minutes was the best footy we’ve played that I can remember. Then we had our worst 40 minutes of the season.”