Triple threat: Kennedy stars as Sharks edge past Bulldogs

A second hat-trick of the season for fullback Will Kennedy led the Sharks to a 33-20 win over the Bulldogs at Accor Stadium on Saturday night.

Kennedy did the damage with 16 minutes of magic in the first half and the Sharks did enough from there to make it back-to-back wins for the first time in 2023.

After the Bulldogs opened the scoring with an early penalty goal to Matt Burton the Sharks struck twice in the space of three minutes to blow the game open.

Both the tries came courtesy of Kennedy who backed up a Briton Nikora break to score in the seventh minute and then flew high to pull down a Matt Moylan bomb for his second. Nicho Hynes converted both tries for a 12-2 lead.

The Bulldogs struck back in the 19th minute when Braidon Burns crossed in the right hand corner after slick hands from Hayze Perham and Jake Averillo created space for the winger.

Come the 23rd minute and Kennedy had his second hat-trick of the season when he sliced through from 15 metres out and bamboozled the Bulldogs defence to make it 18-8 to the Sharks.

A clever grubber by Reed Mahoney earned the Bulldogs a repeat set late in the half and they capitalised when Perham picked out Declan Casey with a pinpoint cut-out pass and the home side were back within four points at the break.

The Sharks hit the ground running in the second term when Royce Hunt went within inches of scoring before Ronaldo Mulitalo flew high to bring down a bomb and passed to Matt Moylan who touched down in the corner. Hynes' conversion made it 24-14 to the Sharks.

When Sione Katoa finished off classy inside work by Moylan and Hynes to rack up his 50th career try the Sharks had opened up a 16-point lead and their fourth win of the season looked assured.

The Bulldogs then found some space down the left with 17 minutes to play but Hynes showed his defensive skills with a sliding cover tackle to take Casey over the sideline.

Sticking to their guns the Bulldogs produced a try in the 68th minute when Burton went to the line and got a nice offload away to Corey Waddell to make it 30-20 with the conversion.

An embarrassing moment for Mulitalo in the 75th minute when put his hand on the sideline as he slid into the corner for what would have been his eighth try of the season.

A penalty goal to Hynes with four minutes to play and a field goal to the halfback in the final minute put the finishing touches on a 33-20 victory.

Match snapshot

  • Sharks fullback Will Kennedy has scored nine tries in seven games in 2023. He also ran for 172 metres on the night.
  • The Sharks had 36 tackle breaks compared to 21 for the Bulldogs.
  • Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo ran for 205 metres and had three line breaks and five tackle breaks.
  • Tevita Pangai jnr did his best to inspire the Bulldogs with 13 runs for 116 metres and was ably supported by Corey Waddell with 128 metres.
  • The Sharks made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
  • The Sharks have won 10 of their past 12 games against the Bulldogs.
  • The Bulldogs have conceded 113 points in their past three games.
  • Josh Reynolds entered the game with 17 minutes to play for the Bulldogs.
  • Jacob Preston and Reed Mahoney combined for 79 tackles for the Bulldogs while Cameron McInnes topped the Sharks' tackle count with 40.

Plays of the Game
The Sharks' No.1 gun Will Kennedy has enjoyed a sensational start to the season with nine tries, two try assists and 17 tackle breaks and he was at his dazzling best early with a hat-trick inside the first 23 minutes. Kennedy displayed his full range of skills to snare his triple - support play to grab his first try in the seventh minute, flying high to bring down a bomb in the 10th minute and slicing through from close range in the 23rd minute with some fancy footwork.




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What They Said
"Will [Kennedy] kept turning up, getting his defensive line organised, defusing bombs, chasing kicks and making tackles down field. He's everywhere. And Brit [Nikora], he's a team first kind of guy and the players love him for that. He's an 80-minute back-rower and a lot of stuff he and Teig Wilton do goes unnoticed."
- Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon

"We tried hard but we killed ourselves at times. I thought our start to both halves was poor and we got out-competed a number of times and we were made to pay for it against a team that makes you pay if you give them opportunities. We hang there and we try hard but we don't know when to go after a game with and without the ball. I thought we looked dangerous every time Matt [Burton] ran the ball but we're still a work in progress there [in the spine]. I thought it was an improvement on the past couple of weeks." - Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo

What's Next
The Bulldogs travel to Wollongong in Round 9 to face the Dragons while the Sharks kick off the round with a Thursday night clash against the Cowboys at PointsBet Stadium.




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Martin Lenehan, NRL Senior Journalist