Two squads depleted by Origin delivered an intense clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium tonight, premiers Cronulla coming away with a slender 9-8 victory after trailing Canterbury by four points at halftime in front of a huge 20,497 crowd.
The Bulldogs rocked up ready to play after a disappointing turnout against the Roosters last week. Both sides were hitting hard early but it was the Sharks who got on the board with a slew of penalties, eventually converting it into two points with Val Holmes putting it over the black dot for a 2-0 lead.
Neither side was able to cross the line for the first 25 minutes - until Brenko Lee stepped his way through some fairly soft edge defence from Cronulla to put the visitors ahead 6-2.
It wasn't all rosy for the Bulldogs - while they took that four point lead to the break it was without James Graham after he sustained a shoulder injury which kept him on the bench for the rest of the night.
Canterbury's defence continued to save their hide, maintaining their lead until the 53rd minute when an unlikely penalty enabled Kerrod Holland to push the lead out to six points.
This ensured the rest of the game was a tense contest and in reality, told the Sharks they were every chance of executing a come-from-behind win, just like they had against the Cowboys last round.
Cronulla delivered on that promise in the 67th minute when Gerard Beale scored off an exciting 100m play which started with Paul Gallen getting out of the in-goal against all odds, before a Holmes break led to Beale breaking through the line and streaking away untouched.
The next twelve minutes after Holmes' conversion to level proceedings turned into a battle for field position, ultimately won by Cronulla in the 77th minute when Chad Townsend struck the winner, a field goal which gave the premiers a one-point win.
Next week Canterbury host Penrith on Sunday afternoon at ANZ, while Cronulla enjoy the bye before consecutive home games against Melbourne, the Tigers and Manly.