The UNSW/ES Bulldogs took on the East Coast Eagles in a match full of excitement on Saturday 1 April. The Eagles unveiled their premiership flag before the game, reminding the Bulldogs it would be no easy task to take them down. The Dogs were undaunted by the challenge, holding on for the win in a thrilling contest that went down to the final seconds.
In what must have been a shock for the defending premiers, the Bulldogs got off to a flying start in the first quarter at Bruce Purser Reserve. Marc Dragicevic proved a strong target upfront as the red, white and blue swarmed the forward line and kicked four goals before the Eagles had a chance to blink. The Eagles responded with two goals of their own, but the Dogs had the lead at the first break, up 5.1 (31) to 2.3 (15).
The Eagles had a lot of work to do in the second quarter as they tried to penetrate the Bulldogs defence. After a couple of peppered shots on goal, they kicked a major to break through however the Bulldogs were able to steady and slot a goal before half time to maintain the lead. They went into the sheds with a 6.1 (37) to 3.6 (24) score line.
The defence for both teams stepped it up early on in the premiership quarter as the two teams traded possession of the ball and the defence at either end made sure nothing came of it. The deadlock was eventually broken as the game opened up a bit after a running goal for the Bulldogs got things rolling. The Bulldogs had the last laugh as they won the quarter, kicking three goals to the Eagles two and holding on to a 17 point margin with one quarter to play.
It was tough going early on as co-captain Jack McAnespie took a spectacular mark but in the process got some serious cramps in his hamstrings. The Eagles finally rallied and kicked a couple of goals back-to-back before the Bulldogs steadied and managed to claw back the lead with a goal.
Not quite done with the drama, the Eagles kept at it and got themselves all squared-up with less than five minutes remaining. The Bulldogs had one last push and got themselves back into the lead, not wanting to let the Eagles take the match out of their hands.
As the game neared the end, the play can only be described as frantic as numbers swarmed the ball. A free kick to the Eagles allowed them to try and set up one last play, but the siren beat them to it and the Dogs held on for the win 11.6 (72) to 10.10 (70).
Post match, Coach Stephen Pollock was ecstatic about the win and the way his young squad held on for the victory.
“It feels good. The win feels good,” said Pollock. “The boys deserve every accolade they got.”
Co-captain Jack McAnespie said the result was exciting for the club, but spoke to the importance of the win setting the Dogs up for the season.
“Round 1 we wanted to come out here and make a statement. That’s a standard now and we’ve got to go and back it up.”
Fellow captain Jeremy Daniher echoed McAnespie’s comments, and said the game was won through their fast start.
“[The first quarter lead was] very important in the end, because we ran out of legs in that last quarter. It was lucky we had that buffer at the start.”
Next week’s match sees the UNSW/ES Bulldogs take on the Manly Warringah Wolves at 2:30pm on Saturday 8 April at Henson Park.
Jack Smith, UNSW/ES Bulldogs Reporter
UNSW EASTERN SUBURBS BULLDOGS
Goal Kickers: M. Dragicevic 5, J. Cann 2, N. Reinhard 2, S. Wilson 2
Best Players: H. Palmer, M. Dragicevic, R. Farrelly, N. Reinhard, J. Cann, J. Daniher
EAST COAST EAGLES
Goal Kickers: T. Stubbs 2, M. Weekes 2, K. Emery 2, M. Eastman, A. Browning, P. Vlatko, Z. Johns
Best Players: S. Turner, K. Emery, B. Clark, D. Costello, J. Vlatko, T. Stubbs