Hopoate limps off in Dogs NRL trial loss

Canterbury recruit Will Hopoate limped off with an ankle injury in his side’s 24-20 defeat by Penrith in a trial at Pepper Stadium.

In his first appearance in Bulldogs colours, Hopoate fell awkwardly in a tackle in the 36th minute and tried to play on, but with first-choice No.1 Brett Morris in doubt for round one, came from the field.

Big guns Moses Mbye and Michael Lichaa joined Hopoate in helping the Bulldogs to a 14-0 lead inside the first half hour, however Penrith youngster Te Maire Martin almost single-handedly stole the lead, then the show by scoring a try and setting up two others in his first appearance for the club.

Penrith captain Matt Moylan had a mixed 40-minute stint in his return from a long-term ankle injury, looking lively early at fullback, only to commit a simple error that led to Hopoate crashing over for the first points.

He moved to five-eighth after the drinks break and was crunched by Greg Eastwood in one of his first forays in attack, taking a few minutes to regather himself before finishing out the half.

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin used almost his entire roster against the Bulldogs, including new buys Peta Hiku and Suaia Matagi.

Mbye looked at ease in his debut match as the first-choice No.7, touching the ball three times in the lead-up to the Dogs’ second try, while Lichaa showed some new power from dummy half for their third.

Veteran halfback Peter Wallace also came through unscathed in his return from a knee reconstruction.

But it was Martin who proved their most dangerous playmaker.

The Junior Kiwi showed elite speed in a 40m dash to the tryline, which followed James Segeyaro setting up Tupou Sopoaga from close range in a first half that ended with the visitors leading 14-12.

But it didn’t take long for Martin to steal the advantage after the break, laying on tries for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Chris Smith in the space of just three minutes before bowing out on the hour mark.

Bulldogs young gun Brad Abbey scored in the 68th minute to level the scores at 20-all, however AFL convert Josh Hall went over for the match-winner in the 79th.

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