Kieran Foran ignored the pain of a first-half ankle injury to steer Canterbury to their first win of the season as the Bulldogs brought Wests Tigers back to earth with a 22-8 defeat at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday.
Foran, who is playing back-to-back seasons for the same team for the first time since leaving Manly in 2015, scored a try and had a hand in another as the bottom-placed Bulldogs upset the round two Telstra Premiership leaders to validate the club's decision to re-sign coach Dean Pay.
However, the star playmaker was forced to spend most of the match hobbling in back play after injuring his right ankle in the process of scoring his first half try.
“I was probably doing the bare minimum just to get through. It felt pretty sore but I was glad we were able to get the win," Foran said.
“If I could run then I thought I was good enough to get through the game so I was going to stay out there and worry about the injury after the match.
"They [the coaching staff] were never trying to pull me off. They wanted me to get through the game and I was lucky the guys around me carried that extra load because I was battling."
Fellow former New Zealand Test five-eighth Benji Marshall also suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced in the 65th minute as a late comeback attempt by the Tigers fell short.
The Bulldogs win was built on enthusiasm and ball control, with Pay's men making just one first half error and two in the second half to finish with a 91 per cent completion rate.
Match: Wests Tigers v Bulldogs
Round 3 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney
With Pay making four changes from the team which had succumbed 40-6 to the Warriors and 36-16 to Parramatta in the opening two rounds, the Bulldogs needed the experience of Foran to guide them around he stepped up to deliver arguably his best game since joining the club last year.
Despite being clearly restricted, the former Sea Eagles, Eels and Warriors playmaker made 52 metres in seven runs with the ball and 18 tackles, as well a line-break, a try assist, a line-break assist and five tackle breaks in an inspirational performance.
“He wasn’t going to come off," Pay said. "He led the boys and I thought he led us really well in defence, as well.
“Obviously in the first round we didn’t give him much to play off the back off but I thought today and last week to an extent he was looking to get involved in the game. To play the footy he has played and where he wants to get back to it is going to take a little while but he is moving forward."
Before sustaining the injury Foran had already left his mark on the game both in defence and attack, with a bruising one-on-one tackle on Luke Garner forcing the Tigers second-rower from the field in the 11th minute before the Bulldogs playmaker forced his way over for a 30th minute try.
The New Zealand international dummied and ran at the line from close range but got up hobbling and was virtually a passenger on the right side of the ruck for the rest of the match.
Get caught up: Round 3
However, he still played a role in Canterbury's third try after Jeremy Marshall-King raced out of dummy half and threw a looping pass for Foran, who linked with second-rower Corey Harawira-Naera to put prop Dylan Napa over for his second try in as many weeks.
With winger Reimis Smith finishing a length of the field try after fullback Nick Meaney picked up a loose pass from Luke Brooks to Michael Chee Kam five metres out from the Bulldogs line and racing to halfway before finding Will Hopoate in support, Canterbury led 18-0 at the interval.
They stretched it to 22-0 in the 50th minute when Adam Elliott scored off a Napa pass.
Tigers winger Mahe Fonua gave fans of the joint venture some hope when he scored in the 55th minute and a Garner try from a Ryan Matterson grubber kick reduced the margin the 14 points with 15 minutes remaining but it was too little too late.