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The Canterbury Bulldogs kicked off Cameron Ciraldo’s tenure with a promising 34-18 win over the Raiders in Moruya on Sunday. The Bulldogs dominated the first 40 minutes, scoring four tries to take a 22-6 lead.

New recruit Reed Mahoney, who was brought in to address the side’s attacking issues in 2023, immediately made an impact by linking well with Josh Reynolds and Kyle Flanagan to set up a 16-0 lead against an error-prone Raiders team.

Mahoney’s presence around the ruck was clear, as he got the Bulldogs’ forwards moving and linked well with Flanagan and Reynolds. Flanagan looked more confident and was eager to challenge the line, while Reynolds, who made his return to the field after 876 days, demonstrated that he will be a valuable addition to the squad this year.

Ryan Sutton, another new recruit, scored Canterbury’s third try, but had to leave the field after a head injury. Franklin Pele showed some fancy footwork, setting up Jacob Preston for a try on the left edge. Despite tries from Brad Schneider, Elijah Anderson, and James Schiller, the Raiders were unable to close the gap completely.

Canterbury extended their lead through Blake Wilson, but the Raiders quickly narrowed the deficit with a try from Mitchell Spencer. Raiders veteran Jarrod Croker made a successful return to the field after shoulder surgery last year, although he was a bit rusty with the ball. The decision on who will start at dummy half for Ricky Stuart in Round 1 of the Telstra Premiership remains uncertain as Danny Levi, Zac Woolford, and Tom Starling were limited in their opportunities.