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Five of the Best: Battles Against the Bulldogs

One of the most underappreciated rivalries in the competition, the Roosters and Bulldogs have fought tooth and nail for over 85 years in the top grade, and there have certainly been some great battles in that time.

While there were over 180 contests to choose from, here are Five of the Best.

Welcome to the Big Leagues: Round 6, 1935

In the first-ever clash between Easts and Canterbury in early 1935, the Red, White and Blue were well on their way in their quest for the title – and they spared no mercy for the competition’s new team.

Led by superstar centre Dave Brown, the Tricolours held a strong 27-2 lead at half-time, but that would grow considerably as they posted a further 60 – yes, 60 – points in the second stanza.

In total, Eastern Suburbs piled on nineteen tries, which included a hat-trick to centre Ross McKinnon and doubles to Andy Norval, Joe Pearce, Fred Tottey and Viv Thicknesse to claim an incredible 87-7 victory. With tries worth three points at the time, in modern-day scoring, it would have been 106-8.

Point Scoring Record: Dave Brown scored five tries and kicked fifteen goals in the Club's first-ever contest with Canterbury-Bankstown in 1935, amassing an incredible 45 points.
Point Scoring Record: Dave Brown scored five tries and kicked fifteen goals in the Club's first-ever contest with Canterbury-Bankstown in 1935, amassing an incredible 45 points.

Brown himself scored a mammoth five tries and fifteen goals, with a personal tally of 45 points – a record which has yet to be bested – in what is currently the Club’s biggest-ever win, and one that is likely to be for generations to come. 

Eastern Suburbs 87 (Dave Brown 5, Ross McKinnon 3, Andy Norval 2, Joe Pearce 2, Viv Thickesse 2, Fred Tottey 2, Ernie Norman, Rod O’Loan, Henry Pierce tries; Dave Brown 15 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown 7 (Fred Chaplin try, Tom Carey 2 goals)


Breaking the Drought: Grand Final, 1974

It had been 29 long years since Easts had tasted Premiership success, and two years after reaching the decider, Canterbury were the only team standing in the way of glory in 1974. 

Having already lost to their Grand Final opponents through the semi-finals, Jack Gibson’s Minor Premier overcame that defeat to meet the Bulldogs in the Grand Final.

A tight contest to start, both teams slotted penalty goals in the softening up stage, before Russell Fairfax put Arthur Beetson over for a memorable try to give Easts the lead. Canterbury then kicked another penalty goal which saw the Tricolours lead 7-4 at the break.

As the game wore on, the Roosters continued to build momentum, and from there, barnstorming centre Mark Harris carried three defenders over the line to score a bruising try. 

1974 Grand Final Highlights

A brace of penalty goals to centre John Peard extended the lead, but it was a late try to flying winger Bill Mullins that saw Easts reach the summit and claim their 10th Premiership in jubilant fashion.

Eastern Suburbs Roosters 19 (Arthur Beetson, Mark Harris, Brett Mullins tries; John Peard 3, John Brass 2 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4 (Stan Cutler 2 goals)


Freddy’s Roosters Topple Reigning Premiers: Round 3, 1996

With new signing Brad Fittler leading the charge, the Sydney City Roosters took on the reigning Premiers in this early season, low scoring match in 1996 at the Sydney Football Stadium.

A physical contest from the outset, the two teams sent out warning shots from the kick-off with attacking brilliance and defensive fortitude, but it was the visitors who scored the first points as Daryl Halligan kicked a penalty eight minutes in to take an early lead. 

Star Signing: Brad Fittler arrived at the Club as Australian Test Captain in 1996 and made an immediate impact, playing a significant role in the early season win against the Bulldogs.
Star Signing: Brad Fittler arrived at the Club as Australian Test Captain in 1996 and made an immediate impact, playing a significant role in the early season win against the Bulldogs.

A tackle off the ball handed fullback Ivan Cleary a chance to level the scores a few minutes later, before the Roosters’ committed goal-line defence proved too good for John Timu, with Matt Sing and Luke Ricketson stopping him short of the chalk. 

In the shadows of half-time and with neither side able to breach the opposition line, Cleary found himself in the sin-bin after committing a professional foul, and from there the Dogs took a 4-2 lead as the sides went into the sheds.

But the Red, White and Blue would claim the lead for the first time as Fittler dazzled his opposition and the crowd, taking a short ball from Adrian Lam and putting on his trademark sidestep to dive over next to the posts in a classy try.

The two teams continued to fight tooth and nail for another opportunity to strike, but a solitary penalty goal on the bell to Cleary was the only other score posted in this hard-fought encounter, sealing an enthralling 10-6 victory.

Sydney City Roosters 10 (Brad Fittler try; Ivan Cleary 3 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 4 (Daryl Halligan 2 goals)


Sonny on the Money: Round 6, 2013

With Sonny Bill Williams returning to Rugby League via the Sydney Roosters in 2013, there were plenty of eyes fixated on him as the Tricolours took on his former side Canterbury-Bankstown – and he certainly reminded him of what they were missing. 

A raucous crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium saw a diverse range of receptions for the star back rower, and it was his magic touch that put the Roosters on the board not ten minutes into the contest, throwing a beautifully timed cut-out pass to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

A penalty goal to James Maloney saw the scores at 8-nil heading into the break, with neither side able to breach the other’s line in the opening half, but the floodgates were about to open thanks to SBW’s influence.

Roosters v Bulldogs Round 1 (Highlights)

The man of the moment had the ball once again on the outside, but opted to go it himself this time, touching down in the corner much to the joy of the Red, White and Blue faithful in the stands.

After denying Tony Williams from getting on the scoresheet, the Roosters ran rampant as Maloney put Daniel Mortimer over soon after before Sonny barged over to collect his brace.

Two more tries and with the Bondi Wall holding up all that was thrown their way, the Tricolours ran away with an emphatic 38-nil victory in their biggest win against the Bulldogs since 1935.

Sydney Roosters 38 (Sonny Bill Williams 2, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Daniel Mortimer, James Maloney, Michael Jennings tries; James Maloney 7 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 0


Tedesco Treble Trounces Dogs: Round 5, 2020

With the competition back after a months-long hiatus in mid-2020, and with crowds slowly but surely returning to normality, the Roosters gave their fans plenty to cheer for in this encounter with James Tedesco at the forefront.

Highlights | Bulldogs v Roosters

The mercurial fullback stamped his mark just two minutes into the match, putting back rower Angus Crichton over the line for a four-pointer thanks to some scheming from five-eighth Luke Keary on the inside.

Four minutes later Joseph Manu and Brett Morris combined to add to the scoresheet once more with some expansive play before the Tedesco and Crichton partnership saw the back rower score his second with an audacious offload. The flying fullback was rewarded with a four-pointer of his own soon after courtesy of Sitili Tupouniua.

While the Roosters' attacking brilliance was on song, their defensive prowess continued to shine, preventing a try and taking the Bulldogs into touch in the dying stages of the first half as they headed into the sheds with a 24-nil lead.

The 2019 Dally M Medallist continued to prove his worth in the second stanza, preventing a certain Bulldogs try by intercepting the ball before sending Brett Morris through a gap, and while they didn’t go over there, the veteran winger repaid Tedesco a few sets later to put him over for his second. 

Although Canterbury eventually got on the board, it was all Red, White and Blue as the custodian grabbed his hat-trick with a dazzling display of footwork before Morris got over himself, with the Roosters claiming a 42-6 victory.


Sydney Roosters 42 (James Tedesco 3, Angus Crichton 2, Kyle Flanagan, Brett Morris tries; Kyle Flanagan 7 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6 (Kieran Foran try; Lachlan Lewis goal)