After going down to the Tupapa Panthers in a nail-biting encounter a week ago, Eels lost to the Bulldogs 22-30 at Teimurimotia Park on Saturday.
The match of the round saw a tit-for-tat fight between two giants, but the host managed to get the better of it after putting on an impressive show in both spells.
Bulldogs led 18-16 at the break after both teams exchanged tries in a fast-paced first half played under sweltering condition.
Bone crunching tackles and some hard runs continued in the second spell when the Eels stepped up their play to get back into the game. But a penalty conversion from the Bulldogs denied them that opportunity.
The visitors maintained their composure and were rewarded for their effort with a try which put them into the lead 22-20.
However, a brilliant effort from the Bulldogs who scored a try in the corner followed by some powerful play from the burly Oz Tunapopo, who forced himself over the try line, sealed the 30-22 win for them.
Bulldogs coach Meti Noovao said the team needed this win to get their campaign back on track.
After losing successive matches earlier in the competition, Bulldogs seemed to have found their rhythm to become early contenders for the title.
“It is still anyone’s ball game in the competition, which is healthy for the game of rugby league,” Noovao said. “I take my hats off to my boys. They played well and deserved the win but full credit to the Eels, they put up a good challenge for us.”
Eels coach Albert Nicholas said they would bounce back despite losing key players to injuries. “I guess both teams were equal in capability in taking this match but I think whoever comes to win the match on the day, whoever is hungrier for it will take the game and obviously the Bulldogs were much hungrier.”
In the other premier matches, Panthers defeated TKV Warriors while the Sea Eagles downed Aitutaki Sharks.