Bulldogs cling to hope of finals miracle
While it remains wildly unlikely, Canterbury's NRL top eight hopes remarkably remain alive following their spirited 12-6 upset of Parramatta.
Dean Pay's men on Thursday night showed their rebuild has come a long way over the last few months as they provisionally moved to two points behind eight-placed Cronulla.
Should the Dogs win their final two games against North Queensland and Brisbane, and 11 other results run their way, by way of a minor miracle they would find themselves in the finals.
They are now $51 with bookmakers to make the top eight.
Regardless of their eventual fate, it has been a remarkable turnaround for a side which has had the wooden spoon dangling over their heads most of the year and were in last spot up until round 15.
Since State of Origin, they have won six of eight - with all of those victories coming against sides who were in the top eight at the time.
"When we came back from the break, we spoke about wanting to finish off the season the best way we possibly can," Bulldogs coach Dean Pay said.
"We spoke about putting a lot of energy into our defence. Over the last six or seven weeks, that's what's kept us in games and given us the opportunity to win games."
Pay described Thursday's spiteful win over the Eels - regarded by many as one of the games of the season - as the best victory he'd been involved in since taking over in 2018.
They got home thanks to a Nick Meaney penalty try with 10 minutes remaining after Mitchell Moses lashed out with his boot in an attempt to stop the Bulldogs winger from scoring.
After out-lasting the Eels, the Bulldogs could rightly be considered one of the form teams of the competition.
Kieran Foran continues his remarkable resurgence and looks injury free for the first time in a long time, Dylan Napa had arguably his best game in several years with 166 metres, Josh Jackson was his usual tireless self while Will Hopoate was brilliant running for a game-high 205 metres.
Their only losses in the last two months have come against Brisbane and the Sydney Roosters.
While Pay refuses to put a timeline on when he expects the proud club to be back in the finals, he said he felt like they had turned a corner.
"They care about one another and they're building a lot of team spirit," Pay said.
"We want to be a top four team and however long that takes it takes.
"Once we get there we want to be a consistent top four footy team. We need to get a lot of things in place. It's not going to happen overnight but over the last month things are starting to turn for us."
HOLDING ON TO A MIRACLE The 11 results which would need to go the Bulldogs' way for them to qualify for the finals
* North Queensland beat Penrith
* South Sydney beat Brisbane
* Warriors beat Cronulla
* Newcastle beat Wests Tigers
* Parramatta beat Brisbane
* Sydney Roosters beat Penrith
* Canberra beat Cronulla
* St George Illawarra beat Wests Tigers
* Canberra beat Warriors
* Wests Tigers beat Cronulla
* Newcastle beat Penrith
© AAP 2019