It was far from convincing but the Cronulla Sharks have managed to bounce back from a disappointing local derby defeat to claim a two-point victory over the struggling Bulldogs.
After a tight first half saw the two sides enter the break locked up at six, the Sharks quickly found more success down the right edge to start the second half and survived a valiant comeback attempt from the Bulldogs. Sharks winger Sione Katoa had his best outing of 2020, scoring a hat-trick of tries to go along with eight tackle breaks, 144 run metres, and a pair of line breaks. Midseason recruit Bryson Goodwin was also strong, scoring a try, running for 151 metres, and making zero errors in his first game as a Shark since 2008. Following a week of heavy criticism, halves Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend each laid on a pair of try assists and combined for 151 run metres and 648 kick metres. Front-rower Aaron Woods ran for a game-high 194 metres to go along with 23 tackles and zero misses in 49 minutes, whilst Andrew Fifita gave coach John Morris strong minutes off the bench, running for 135 metres with four tackle breaks in just 32 minutes.
The Bulldogs were led by the ever consistent Will Hopoate, who scored a try, ran for 187 metres and made five tackle breaks, whilst Adam Elliott was the Dogs’ best forward, running for 125 metres and making 42 tackles in an 80-minutes effort. Winger Christian Crichton was the beneficiary of a wayward Shaun Johnson pass, running more than 90 metres untouched in the final five minutes to set up a potential grandstand finish.
The Sharks look ahead to a Sunday afternoon encounter on the Central Coast against a dangerous-looking Sea Eagles outfit. Des Hasler is looking at the prospect of being without Tom Trbojevic, Martin Taupau, Moses Suli, Dylan Walker and Brad Parker for his side’s clash against Cronulla. Underestimating an understrength Sea Eagles side would be at Cronulla’s peril, who learnt first-hand in 2019 just how potent Manly can be with their backs against the wall. Manly have looked strong this year and last year, proving that they can still perform despite being short-handed. It will take a complete performance for Cronulla to come out on top in this one.