WATCH: Warriors down Dogs despite Luke injury
A DISLOCATED shoulder to in-form hooker Issac Luke threatened to derail the Warriors on Friday night but an electric performance from his understudy Nathaniel Roache helped the home side to a 21-14 win over the Bulldogs.
Luke was one of the outstanding players on the field for the first half an hour until an awkward landing in an innocuous tackle ended his night in the 33rd minute, forcing coach Stephen Kearney to unleash his bench X-factor earlier than planned.
Almost 50 minutes later the 21-year-old had close to 100 running metres out of dummy half and produced a stunning no-look pass to Shaun Johnson in one of the game's biggest moments.
Johnson was pulled down 10 metres short of the tryline from a desperate covering tackle from Canterbury star Josh Jackson, but Wednesday's State of Origin man of the match stayed on top of the halfback for too long and he was sin binned just 30 seconds before half-time.
It was a costly moment of indiscipline, with the Warriors capitalising just on the other side of half-time - an intelligent blindside kick from Johnson sitting up nicely for centre Blake Ayshford, who beat Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate to the ball to score.
Johnson's conversion extended the Warriors' lead to 12 points and it always looked a big task for the Bulldogs to reel in the lead.
Still, as they often do, the Warriors made it harder on themselves than they needed to, letting the Bulldogs back into it before a Johnson field-goal in the 69th minute and a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try in the 75th finally put the game to bed.
Backing up just two days after Origin, David Klemmer and Jackson were two of Canterbury's best players, with Klemmer running 14 times for 132 metres after starting on the bench and Jackson opening the match like a bull at a gate before his unfortunate sin binning turned things.
At that stage the Bulldogs trailed 8-2 at the end of a dour first half, with both sides struggling to string together positive attacking sets in greasy conditions.
Canterbury opened the scoring through a penalty kick to Kerrod Holland in the 11th minute as the Bulldogs made the early running.
But despite spending a couple of consecutive sets in good field position, the visitors were unable to capitalise and they were punished on the counter attack when Warriors winger Ken Maumalo scored a 65 metre solo effort out of nowhere.
Nothing looked to be on when Maumalo got the ball wide and deep in his own half but after Josh Reynolds slipped off him in the tackle, the 105 kilo wrecking ball got back to his feet and turned on the speed, beating limp efforts from Marcelo Montoya and Will Hopoate to score.
It was a moment of magic in an otherwise uninspiring opening 40 and when the home side extended their lead early in the second half things looked ominous for Des Hasler's side.
But even if they are having a rough season, the Bulldogs can rarely be accused of throwing in the towel and they dug deep to get back into the match on the back of a couple of penalties.
Ironically it was a Warriors junior who got the Bulldogs back into the game, with impact forward Raymond Faitala-Mariner powering his way over the try line from close range in the 55th minute.
Five minutes later, the Bulldogs looked like drawing within two points of their hosts after Greg Eastwood beat Tuivasa-Sheck to a kick in the Warriors' in goal but the Kiwi international was unable to ground the ball clearly, with the bunker correctly ruling a knock on.
Three minutes later it was a crucial mistake from skipper James Graham that handed the momentum back to the Warriors, with the big Englishman dropping the ball cold on halfway.
The Warriors went close two minutes later when centre David Fusitu'a was ruled offside from a kick that ended up with Maumalo whose second try of the match was subsequently ruled out.
But the home side only had to wait four more minutes for the killer blow, with Johnson's field goal sucking the wind out of the hosts and Tuivasa-Sheck finishing the job.