The accurate kicking of halfback Nicho Hynes, on a surface with plenty of standing water, was key to Cronulla building pressure on the scoreboard against a Bulldogs side who were reduced to a two-man bench midway through the second half.
The match swung on a potential 12-point turnaround just after the hour mark, with the Dogs denied a try to rookie Kurtis Morrin after the NRL Bunker found a Sharks player was held back in the lead-up, before Nikora scored three minutes later.
- A Ronaldo Mulitalo try and Nicho Hynes sideline conversion gave the Sharks an early lead.
- Jake Averillo scored in the final minute of the first half to make it seven tries in his last four games.
- The Bulldogs were reduced to a two-person bench midway through the second half after losing Tevita Pangai Junior (ankle) five minutes before the break, followed by debutant Declan Casey (head injury).
- Sione Katoa's second-half try was his sixth in three games against the Bulldogs and 12th of the season.
- Canterbury duo Josh Addo-Carr and Max King were both placed on report for a dangerous tackles in the first half.
- The Dogs recieved a lucky break when Matt Burton was ruled to have found touch from a dropout on 55 minutes, with subsequent replays showing it went out on the full.
- Canterbury rookie Kurtis Morrin got over for a try on the hour mark, but further inspection from the NRL Bunker found a Cronulla player was held back in the lead up.
- Briton Nikora's try 15 minutes from time sealed the deal for the Sharks.
- The Cronulla back five all ran for more than 100 metres in the rain, with centres Jesse Ramien (168) and Siosifa Talakai (192) leading the way.
Play of the game
Just three minutes after Canterbury were denied a try by the Bunker which would have seen them draw even, Cronulla back-rower Briton Nikora scored a crucial try to double his side's advantage.
What they said
"I was really happy with that, that was extremely tough. Obviously it's going to be difficult to be clinical with everything today in those conditions, it just kept getting harder and harder and slower and slower. I thought even though we conceded a try right on halftime, I was really happy with our goal line defence there... the Bulldogs really turned up physically today, you could see that was evident from the start." - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.
"There was a lot of positives, I thought we hung in well in the first half when we were under a lot of pressure. In the second half we started really well and Ray [Faitala-Mariner] almost scored a try.... but obviously we need to probably play the conditions a little bit better, they probably played a little bit better than us today." - Bulldogs assistant coach Craig Sandercock.
The Sharks face a short turnaround before hosting the Melbourne Storm on Thursday night, with Craig Bellamy’s side sure to be fired up after going down to Manly in Round 16.
Given the injuries to Pangai Junior and Casey, the Bulldogs will be grateful to have a 15-day break ahead of hosting South Sydney in Round 18, while they'll await further news on Addo-Carr and King after they were placed on report for dangerous tackles.
Cronulla forward Jack Williams is a chance of returning from a shoulder injury in Round 17.
Story first published on NRL.com