THE battle for a top two finish remains very much a race in four after Dapto edged out Collegians 24-16 on Saturday, in yet another thriller between last year’s grand final combatants.
On day where gale-force winds buffeted Dapto Showground, the final unpredictable bounce of the ball fell the Canaries way, with winger Josh Bryant racing 80 metres to seal the win with the final play of the game.
It came as the hosts, clinging to a two-point lead, desperately repelled a final advance from the Dogs who came from 14-6 down at halftime to lead 16-14 with seven minutes to play.
It was Bryant who posted the go-ahead try, having bombed a near identical opportunity on the same blade of grass seven minutes into the second half.
It turned into a memorable day for the Canaries flyer however, with his double in the dying stages sealing his side’s first win over the Dogs in their last five meetings.
It was the Canaries first win over top-four opposition since round two, and one captain-coach Michael Henderson hopes will prove a springboard into a finals run.
“We've been in a lot of tight games this year and we haven't got results. It's the second round now and we want to start winning those games,” Henderson said.
“I think it comes off the back of our game against Thirroul last week. It was a tough, they were really good but we weren't that bad.
“We dropped a lot of ball but we were up for it and, again today, our attitude was great so I'm proud of the boys and it was good to get a result.
"We had a really good opportunity there to go up with that try we bombed early in that second half and they're the plays that cost you. It nearly cost us again.
“With the lead we went in with at halftime, with a howling wind behind us, we shouldn't have put ourselves in that position.
“Credit to Collies, they really rolled their sleeves up in the second half and had a crack and, all bar that last seven minutes, they led but we were good enough to get the result.”
Dylan McGregor burrowed over from dummy-half after eight minutes and the hosts led 14-0 after when Nimi Qio bagged a double in the space of five minutes.
Replacement winger Andrew Bray stemmed the bleeding for the visitors with his try 14 minutes before the break.
When Saxon Onur crossed 10 minutes after the resumption, the match was right back on. The Dogs looked to have all the running when Blake Phillips scored under the posts 20 minutes into the second half to take a two-point lead, but the Canaries rallied to snatch the win through Bryant.
“The conditions were pretty tough but I think they just handled it a bit better than us,” Collies coach Nathan Fien said.
“We were able to hang in there, stay in the grind and get ourselves back in the game.
I thought we might have done enough to steal it but they're a classy side and they were just too good for us today and deserved the two points.”