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Bulldogs hold out Dragons in NRL thriller

AAP logoAAP 29/07/2016 Steve Zemek

Canterbury have dealt St George Illawarra's NRL finals hopes a crushing blow with a 13-10 victory. however Paul McGregor's side eased pressure on themselves with a spirited performance.

The Dragons were roundly criticised after three straight losses heading into the game, being outscored 93-30 in that period, but had the ascendancy for most of the contest at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.

They fought back from 13-0 down at halftime to put themselves in the hunt but could not land the killer blow during a frantic final 20 minutes.

The loss leaves the Dragons in 11th and they could be two wins outside the top eight by the end of the weekend.

The result temporarily lifted Des Hasler's side into the top four and was an important bounce back in the wake of their 36-0 trouncing by North Queensland last week.

The Dragons held their own for the opening 20 minutes, but when Josh Reynolds and Sam Kasiano scored within four minutes of each other, things looked ominous for McGregor's under-fire side.

The Dragons went close to scoring on five occasions in the first half but the Bulldogs took a 13-0 lead into halftime when Josh Reynolds snapped a field goal as the siren sounded in the background.

Joel Thompson went close to scoring but was brought down inches from the line after being tripped by Reynolds. The Canterbury five-eighth was not put on report but is facing the scrutiny of the match review committee and a big suspension, after twice being suspended for the same offence in the last two years.

Just when the Bulldogs looked like they were going to run away with it, Gareth Widdop grubbered for Kurt Mann before Benji Marshall laid on a similar try for Euan Aitken to make it 13-10 in the 61st.

However the Bulldogs hung on to keep themselves in the hunt for a top four finish.

Dragons second-rower Tyson Frizell has a nervous wait after appearing to touch referee Chris James in the first half.

Bulldogs front-rower Greg Eastwood, also recently returned from a six-week layoff for a knee injury left the field in the first stanza with a hamstring injury and did not return.

Hasler said Eastwood's injury wasn't good and he was facing several weeks on the sidelines.

The Canterbury coach said he was pleased with his side's goal-line defence and scramble but said they were let down by poor handling and finishing.

"They're great moments (the try-savers), they're very important," Hasler said.

"It's testimony to their desperation, they call it the one per-centers, they're great try-savers.

"But then we've got to be able to back it up with something as simple as completing the next set."

McGregor lauded his side's vast improvement on their recent outings and said they were unlucky not to win.

"There were just a couple of moments in the game, we probably wish the field was 98 metres and not 100," McGregor said.

"We probably would have scored four or five tries otherwise. We got pulled down a couple of times a couple metres short."

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