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Canterbury claims NRL minor premiership
Steve Jancetic
22:50 AEST Sat Sep 1 2012

Canterbury secured their first NRL minor premiership since 1994 and set up an opening week finals grudge match against Manly after crushing Sydney Roosters 42-10 on the back of yet more Ben Barba brilliance.

Barba, expected to be crowned the season's best at Tuesday's Dally M awards, added another highlight to his lengthy reel of special moments with a brilliant second half try at ANZ Stadium.

It was one of seven tries for the Bulldogs as they put a punctuation mark on a dominant regular season, the result pitting coach Des Hasler against the club he led to two premierships before leaving in acrimonious circumstances in next week's qualifying semi-finals.

Showing last week's 34-6 flogging at the hands of Canberra was a mere aberration, the Bulldogs took just 45 seconds to get on the board via Josh Morris - though there again appeared some question marks over a Bulldogs decoy runner who appeared to take out Braith Anasta.

When Josh Jackson added another it was 12-0 after as many minutes - and the NRL official with JJ Giltinan Shield in the back of the car had started making his way to ANZ Stadium.

The Roosters threatened to spoil the party when Tautau Moga and Anthony Minichiello scoring tries five minutes apart to cut the deficit to two - and with Melbourne leading Wests Tigers across town, it appeared possible the Storm could snatch top spot.

The Bulldogs gave themselves some breathing space with another try before halftime to Frank Pritchard, but it was after the break they put the foot on the pedal with four unanswered tries.

The interchange of passing between the forwards which has been a feature of their play all year set up a brilliant Kris Keating try two minutes after the restart.

Then it was time for Barba to leave his mark, the fullback somehow getting to a Josh Reynolds kick just inside the dead-ball line for a 30-10 lead before Jackson added a late double to complete his hat-trick.

The win confirmed the Bulldogs as minor premiers in all three grades, with the club's Toyota Cup and NSW Cup sides having confirmed their first-place finishes earlier in the day.

But coach Des Hasler wasn't getting too carried away with what his side had accomplished.

"It's a great club achievement, but now we get down to the pointy end, let's be honest," Hasler said.

"It was a nice presentation, we get on with the job now.

Added skipper Michael Ennis:

"It's a good pat on the back, but it's nothing more than that to be honest ... it's certainly not the goal we're after."

As for going up against his old club, Hasler downplayed the occasion.

"I think the theatre's well and truly been rehearsed and been done to death, probably just need to concentrate on the footy," he said.

"... the incentive is you get that week off.

"They (Manly) are a big-match team, they've got plenty of experience there, there'll be another level again."

Roosters coach Brian Smith paid credit to Canterbury's turn around after they missed the finals the past two years.

"They really set an extremely high standard this year the Bulldogs - consistency that's for sure," Smith said.

"It's not an easy thing to do and they've done it well."


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