Dragons edge Bulldogs,reclaim NRL top spot

Matt Encarnacion
St George Illawarra are back at the top of the NRL ladder after a two-point win over Canterbury

It's not a bad way to celebrate the Queen's Birthday.

Not only did they log their first win in the annual public holiday NRL clash, but St George Illawarra also reclaimed top spot with a tense 18-16 win over Canterbury.

The Dragons looked set for a big night when they cruised to an eight-point lead at halftime on Monday.

But they were left stunned soon after the resumption as the Bulldogs scored two tries in the space of three minutes - both sparked by veteran winger Brett Morris.

Having spent the first half failing to get around the Dragons' defence, a Morris linebreak through the middle was the catalyst for Canterbury's comeback.

Will Hopoate pounced on a Josh Jackson grubber soon after the Morris bust, then Morris was quick to ground a Matt Frawley kick not long after.

Moses Mbye's sideline conversion gave the Bulldogs a shock two-point lead with half an hour to go.

However, back-to-back Gareth Widdop penalties, the second of which came against Aaron Woods for a late shot on James Graham, gave the advantage back to the Dragons.

The Bulldogs had a number of chances to steal the game late, including a Marcelo Montoya break that was stopped by a desperate Matt Dufty tackle, but the Dragons held on to claim a narrow victory.

It was their first win in the Queen's Birthday clash since its inception in 2015 and lifts them back above Penrith on points differential after the Panthers managed to beat Canberra by only one.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor was proud of their ability to fight through bad patches.

"We were a bit clunky in the second half which can happen with fatigue at different stages, but the boys kept finding something which is really important for us. We come here to win, we got a win," he said.

"We haven't been able to do that in the past too much against the Dogs."

For the Bulldogs, the gut-wrenching defeat leaves them in 15th spot on eight points, all but ruling them out of finals contention for a second straight season.

A long afternoon appeared on the cards for the Bulldogs when Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes cleanly broke the line in the first set, and Euan Aitken and Tariq Sims crossed for soft tries.

An 18th-minute try to Adam Elliott stemmed the tide but the Dragons took a 14-6 lead after Nene Macdonald crossed for one of his trademark diving efforts just before the break.

Bulldogs coach Dean Pay bemoaned their slow start.

"I just thought the first 20 minutes killed us. The 60 minutes after that I thought it was fantastic footy. I thought it was some of the better footy we played this year," he said.