Penrith Panthers have broken the Bulldogs' undefeated start to the NSW Cup season with a 30-16 victory at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.
The 14-point triumph lifts Peter Wallace's men to second on the ladder with four wins and one loss.
The Bulldogs held an early advantage, scoring the game's first two tries, before attacking creativity from Sean O’Sullivan, who re-joined the side this round after a stint in the NRL, saw the Panthers storm home to victory.
Canterbury started the match on the front foot with fullback Corey Allan scoring the opening try off a bomb from Bailey Biondi-Odo in the seventh minute. Aaron Schoupp slotted the conversion from close range, extending the Bulldogs’ lead to six.
A textbook attacking play assisted the home side to snag another four points spreading the ball left to the right with a quick pass from captain Zach Dockar-Clay putting Josh Stuckey into a gap. Schoupp was quick to convert, taking the Bulldogs lead out to 12.
Disciplinary errors from Penrith saw skipper J’maine Hopgood sent to the sin-bin, while the Bulldogs plotted their next attack.
Fortunately, the 12-man side stepped up to the challenge. Robert Jennings, Christian Chrichton and Sunia Turuva shut down Canterbury’s onslaught, pushing winger Isaac Lumelume into touch.
O’Sullivan demonstrated his power, forcing the Bulldogs to concede three goal line drop-outs in 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs attempted a short drop-out on the third, but lacked patience waiting for Biondi-Odo to put boot to ball, rewarding the Panthers with a penalty for being in front of the kicker.
Fresh off the Penrith bench, Liam Henry was quick to inject himself into the game, bulldozing himelf through the Bulldogs defence to score; and Kurt Falls added the extras to reduce the deficit to six.
Five minutes later Falls scored his own four-pointer after a barnstorming run from Hopgood put the Panthers within inches of the line. The skipper offloaded to hooker Soni Luke who found Falls in support, sending him over beside the posts.
Falls made no mistake in converting his own try, levelling the scores with five minutes left of the first half.
Off the kick-off, Panthers winger Thomas Jenkins penetrated the left edge breaking the Bulldogs line as he sprinted away untouched to put his team ahead on the scoreboard. Falls added the extra two points from in front of the posts, sending the Panthers to sheds with a six-point advantage.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 18 - BULLDOGS 12
The Panthers carried their momentum into the second half, opening their account through prop forward Eddie Blacker, who ploughed straight through the posts to score in the 42nd minute.
Canterbury looked to capitalise on a right-side overlap in the minutes that followed but a huge tackling effort from Jenkins forced Jayden Okunbor to drop the ball.
Another dominant run from Hopgood allowed O’Sullivan to add an extra four points to the board for the visitors. In similar fashion to Falls’ first half try, Hopgood connected with Luke this time to find the five-eighth in support. Falls kicked his fifth conversion of the day to take the Panthers’ lead out to 18.
After hunting an opportunity on the right edge all game, the chance finally came for Okunbor in the 64th minute. With the Panthers conceding a knock on off the kick-off, the Bulldogs took advantage of an three-on-two overlap to send the winger over in the corner. The conversion attempt from touch fell just short of successful for Schoupp as Canterbury looked to claw back the 14-point deficit.
A late try-saving tackle from Turuva on Dockar-Clay halted the Bulldogs chances of remaining undefeated for the NSW Cup season.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 30 - BULLDOGS 16