Coach Des Hasler claimed Canterbury’s momentum and their big game experience will be crucial in the NRL final series, after the Bulldogs secured the fifth playoff spot with a 26-22 win over the Warriors on Sunday night.
The Warriors led 22-20 with 10 minutes to go but a James Graham try in the 77th minute and a Josh Jackson trysaver on Solomone Kata in the final minute secured the Dogs’ fifth win in a row.
“It was one of those games that the only thing that came out of it was we found a way to win,” Hasler said.
“It wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination. It was always going to be a difficult game.”
“We carry a bit of momentum into the final series this time. Finals are a different level of football, I’m pretty sure this side realises that we have plenty of experience in finals.”
The Dogs have played in two of the last three grand finals and face St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium in Saturday’s elimination final.
Given Canterbury suffered back-to-back losses to South Sydney and Gold Coast at the end of the regular season last year before qualifying for the decider, it is hard to read too much into their lacklustre effort.
A first half Warriors try from Nathan Friend was matched by efforts from the Bulldogs through Josh Morris and Curtis Rona for the home side to lead 8-6 at the break at ANZ Stadium before 14,821 fans.
Tries to Chase Stanley and Damien Cook put the Dogs ahead 20-10 after the hour, after Solomone Kata had scored just after halftime to put the Warriors ahead.
Two tries in five minutes to Tuimoala Lolohea put the visitors clear 22-20 with 10 minutes to play before Graham’s charge put any hopes of an upset to bed.
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said the loss, their eighth in a row and a new record for the club, summed up their season.
“I’m bitterly disappointed for the players,” he said.
“One of our themes this week was to show some real team spirit, we didn’t have a lot to play for but pride.
“That is a reflection of our season, we are not quite good enough at the moment.
“But I’m happy that we put up a fight.”