Wilson lifts Dogs to last-gasp win over Eels

George Clarke |

Canterbury have reached the top eight with a four-point win over Parramatta.
Canterbury have reached the top eight with a four-point win over Parramatta.

Canterbury coach Cameron Ciraldo is hailing his side’s 22-18 win over Parramatta as one of the most courageous of his tenure, as the Bulldogs’ renaissance continues to gather steam.

Diminutive winger Blake Wilson was the hero for the Dogs, snatching victory with a 74th minute winner at Accor Stadium on Monday that moved Canterbury up to seventh spot on the NRL ladder.

It took the Bulldogs all of the 2023 season to scratch their way to seven wins but already in 2024 they have matched that mark in round 14, in an indication of their improvement under Ciraldo.

Wilson’s winner came after Canterbury had lost Bailey Hayward and Josh Curran to concussion, had Kurt Mann put in the sin-bin for a crusher tackle, and lost back-rower Jacob Preston to a suspected broken ankle.

And the 45,496-strong crowd – a record for a regular season Bulldogs-Eels game – added to the belief that Canterbury are a club on the rise under Ciraldo.

Blake Wilson.
Canterbury’s Blake Wilson scored in the first half, and again in the 74th minute to snatch the win. (Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS)

“We just had (club great) Terry Lamb in there who addressed the boys and said that’s one of the gutsiest wins he’d seen in a long time,” Ciraldo said.

“To have someone of that stature think of our game like that, it was really pleasing.

“It was good to see all the work we’ve been doing to play under adversity is paying off.”

While Canterbury were revelling in a hard-fought win, Parramatta were left wondering how they were unable to capitalise against a depleted Dogs side.

The Eels led 12-10 at halftime but aspiring NSW State of Origin halfback Mitchell Moses was unable to guide them to victory. 

“I thought in our first half he (Moses) did some really good things,” said interim Eels coach Trent Barrett.

“Given the time he’s had off, he still did some brilliant things tonight and he’ll be better again next week. 

“If NSW go down that route, they won’t regret it. He’s an excellent player and a big part of our team.”

Bulldogs players celebrate a try.
The Bulldogs were delighted with a win that showed their improvement and lifted them into the eight. (Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS)

Barrett revealed post match that Queensland forward J’Maine Hopgood had been struggling with a nerve issue in his back which impacted his involvement on Monday.

Parramatta began impressively when rookie Blaize Talagi crashed in after just six minutes but Wilson and Dogs captain Stephen Crichton hit back.

Moses ran on the last tackle to set up Will Peninsi just before halftime and, aided by the halfback’s two conversions, the Eels had a two-point lead at the break.

Parramatta kicked on through a Kelma Tuilagi try but their inability to put the Dogs away proved costly.

Crichton scored with 10 minutes left before Connor Tracey scampered across field and found Wilson, who ran in the winner under the posts.

“We’re halfway through the season and we’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve put ourselves in a decent position,” Ciraldo said.