A man-of-the-match effort from Mitchell Pearce in his return from injury has failed to lift Sydney Roosters out of the NRL doldrums, the Tricolours losing 24-20 to Canterbury at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night.
In just his fourth game this year due to injury and suspension, Pearce set up all three of the Roosters’ tries and saved another in a sublime effort in the opening match of round 17 before 7,741 fans.
But it wasn’t enough as poor defence cost the Roosters again.
The Tricolours now need to win all of their last nine games to finish with 28 points, the usual cutoff point for the final eight.
David Klemmer carried the ball forward for the Dogs all night and was their best alongside Brett Morris who scored two tries, as Daniel Tupou did for the Roosters.
Canterbury move into the top four, but will only stay there for a day if Brisbane beat Melbourne on Friday night.
On the back of 63 per cent of the ball in the opening quarter and a very controlled performance the Roosters unexpectedly led 12-0 with Pearce cranking the home side’s attack into gear.
Daniel Tupou sensationally snatched a Pearce bomb out of the cold night air for the game’s first try in the eighth minute.
A Pearce offload in the 19th minute put Latrell Mitchell through the Dogs’ line and the rookie fullback stood up his opposite Will Hopoate and raced away to score.
But handling errors and penalties then hurt the Tricolours.
Curtis Rona skipped over for Canterbury’s first try in the 13th minute. Brett Morris’ first try of the night then drew the scores at 12-all after Moses Mbye’s conversion.
But the Roosters’ revival didn’t continue after the break.
Jake Friend dropped a pass from Pearce with the Bulldogs line open as Daniel Tupou did in the first half.
The Bulldogs took full advantage.
Josh Jackson forced his way over through some flimsy goal line defence in the 56th minute and the Dogs led for the first time of the night 18-14, after a Jackson Hastings penalty goal had broken the deadlock earlier in the half.
When Brett Morris scored his second try on the hour courtesy of some more poor defence from Blake Ferguson, Canterbury led 24-14 and the Roosters looked done.
Tupou scored his second try with three minutes to go to keep the match alive but the Dogs held out.