Bulldogs outlast Sharks and keep finals hopes alive

The Canterbury Bulldogs have grafted out a 19-12 victory over the Cronulla Sharks in front of 8089 fans at Toyota Stadium tonight, ensuring the race for the top eight remains alive for another week.

The opening forty minutes would best be described as a gritty, grafting opening half of football. The Bulldogs had the most of the possession and field position in the opening exchanges and finally took advantage in the 12th minute through lock forward Dene Halatau. Halfback Trent Hodkinson drifted across field before dummying to throw the pass out for Ben Barba to chime into the backline, but instead popped a perfect short ball for Halatau to burst through a disappointing tackle by Sharks five-eighth Wade Graham.

The Sharks finally got their chance to even up possession and field position 10 minutes later and after having 18 tackles inside the Bulldogs 20m zone, it was a matter of time before the home side opened their account. Graham and Townsend sent the ball to the left hand side, before Colin Best aimed the attack back through the middle of the ruck. His short pass to Nathan Gardner saw the fullback burst through an attempted tackle by Frank Pritchard, before carrying Ben Barba over the tryline. The 6-all scoreline looked like remaining that way until the halftime break before Bulldogs interchange forward Greg Eastwood slipped out of some tired Sharks defence. He regained his feet before finding Ben Barba back on the inside; the fullback racing 50m untouched to score under the posts and the Bulldogs went to the break leading 12-6.

Bulldogs second-rower Frank Pritchard faces a nervous wait after he was placed on report by referee Jared Maxwell in the 46th minute for a bone-rattling hit on Sharks five-eighth Wade Graham. The Sharks pivot took the ball to the line, before Pritchard raced out of the line and hit Graham on the jaw with the point of his shoulder. Replays would suggest the Bulldogs forward may have a case to answer when the Match Review Panel meet to decide charges from the weekend.

The 12-6 halftime score would remain that way until the 58th minute when the Bulldogs extended their lead through a Steve Turner penalty goal. Turner appeared to have put the result beyond doubt three minutes later when the visitors took advantage of all their possession in the good part of the field. Halfback Hodkinson perfectly weighted a kick to the corner, which found Turner on the chest and extended the Bulldogs lead out to 18-6.

For the Sharks to be any chance of an unlikely comeback, they needed to score soon after the Bulldogs extended their lead out to 12 points. Sam Tagataese did just that with 16 minutes remaining on the clock after Jeremy Smith delivered a perfect short pass which found the second rower on the chest. Tagataese burst through a tackle of David Stagg and outpaced Ben Barba on a 20m sprint to the tryline. Nathan Stapleton converted the try from out wide to give the home fans a glimmer of hope.

Hodkinson delivered the knockout blow with a 78th minute field goal to extend the lead to seven points and keep their season alive for another week. Next Sunday the Bulldogs travel to Brookvale for the clash with the high-flying Sea Eagles, while the Sharks travel to the Sydney Football Stadium for a clash with the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night.

Match Details
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 12 were defeated by Canterbury Bulldogs 19
National Rugby League - Round 23 - Monday August 15, 2011 7:00pm
Venue: Toyota Stadium
Referee: Jared Maxwell and Gavin Morris
Video Referee: Bernard Sutton
Touch Judges: Steve Carrall and Chris Butler
Crowd: 8089
Halftime: Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 6 Canterbury Bulldogs 12

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Trent Hodkinson (1 Field Goal)
2 Points - Frank Pritchard
1 Point - Paul Gallen

Tries: Sam Tagataese, Nathan Gardner
Conversions: Nathan Stapleton (2/2)

Tries: Steve Turner, Dene Halatau, Ben Barba
Field Goals: Trent Hodkinson (1/1)
Conversions: Steve Turner (2/3)
Penalty Goals: Steve Turner (1/1)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening and welcome to Toyota Stadium for tonight's Round 23 encounter between Cronulla and Canterbury. In team news, the Sharks lose winger Isaac Gordon. Colin Best comes into the run-on side in his place, while Paul Aiton and Josh Cordoba join Anthony Tupou and Sam Tagataese on the bench. Canterbury five-eighth Ben Roberts has been ruled out, with Kris Keating taking his place. Trent Cutler and David Stagg replace Corey Payne and Chris Armit, accompanying Greg Eastwood and Mickey Paea on the interchange.
In the recently completed Toyota Cup curtain raiser, the Canterbury side have run out surprisingly emphatic 48-16 victors over the second-placed Cronulla side.
1 min: The Bulldogs get us underway here tonight and will defend the northern end of Toyota Stadium.
1 min: Graham gets a good clearing kick away and Turner is tackled 20m out from his own line.
2 min: Pomeroy comes in and makes a good ball and all tackle. And he needed to otherwise the Bulldogs would have been away down the eastern side.
3 min: Graham puts the ball in the air and it is perfectly placed. Barba comes up with a good catch before being bundled into the in-goal. In backplay, Bukuya is being assisted from the field for the Sharks.
5 min: Graham kicks to the corner, but Leutele can't bat the ball back into the field of play. Bulldogs scrum.
5 min: Hidkinson's kick on tackle five is weighted into the ingoal and Gardner is nearly pushed back into his own in-goal.
7 min: PENALTY Bulldogs. Douglas strips the ball off Kasiano after the tackle was completed.
8 min: The Bulldogs run a second-man play down their right hand side, but Leutele comes up with a play on the ball and knocks it on, saving a certain try.
9 min: Douglas comes up with a one-on-one steal off Reynolds and the Sharks breathe easily for now.
10 min: Gallen tries to offload in traffic to Gardner, but the fullback puts the ball down.
10 min: The Sharks race off their line and jolt the ball loose out of Idris' arms.
11 min: Snowden doesn't expect the ball and knocks it on and the Bulldogs will once again go back on the attack.
12 min: TRY
TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Scored by Dene Halatau. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner successful.
The Bulldogs take advantage of their good field position and open the scoring tonight. Hodkinson delivered the perfect short pass and Halatau bursts through a disappointing tackle of Wade Graham.
Canterbury Bulldogs 6-0
14 min: PENALTY Bulldogs. The Sharks ruled to have stripped the ball out in a two-man tackle, although they may have been hard done by.
16 min: Townsend comes up with a good kick into the corner. The ball finds touch 10m out from the Bulldogs line.
18 min: PENALTY Sharks. Tolman ruled to have had an unnecessary hand on the ball.
20 min: The Sharks lose their way in the set of six and Townsend's bomb is well taken by Stapleton, but he is thrown into touch.
21 min: Keating tries a fancy chipkick towards Wright, but the winger can't hang onto the ball.
22 min: PENALTY Sharks. Bulldogs slowing the play-the-ball down.
23 min: Morris kicks to Stapleton on the last tackle, but he knocks the ball on.
27 min: Hodkinson drills the ball into touch and both sides get the opportunity to stroll to the scrum.
29 min: Cordoba puts the ball down and the Bulldogs can now extend their lead as they go on the attack.
29 min: Idris tries to be too fancy and throws a no-look pass which goes nowhere near Turner and into touch.
32 min: Some good defence by Idris shuts down a Sharks attacking raid.
33 min: Pritchard throws a pass out the back which is dived on by the Sharks.
33 min: TRY
TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Scored by Nathan Gardner. Conversion attempt by Nathan Stapleton successful.
The Sharks hit back and it had to be Nathan Gardner! The home side threw the ball to the left hand side, before Best went back towards the middle of the ruck and delivered a perfect pass to Gardner who hit the hole and carried two Bulldogs defenders over the line. Stapleton adds the extras from alongside the posts.
6 all
36 min: PENALTY Bulldogs. Barba is hit in a solid tackle by Townsend, but unfortunately for the Sharks the halfback was in front of the kicker.
38 min: PENALTY Sharks. Barba ruled to have flopped on the tackled player.
40 min: TRY
TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Scored by Ben Barba. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner successful.
The Bulldogs hit back and it is none other than Barba that takes advantage of Eastwood crawling out of the attempted tackle by the Sharks and the visitors will go to the break with the lead.
Canterbury Bulldogs 12-6
40 min: Halftime at Toyota Stadium and the Canterbury Bulldogs lead the Cronulla Sharks 12-6.
41 min: The Sharks get the second half underway and the Bulldogs will have first use of the ball.
42 min: The Sharks knock the ball on over the tryline through Best after Townsend kicked to the corner.
44 min: Gardner gets out of the tackle of Idris, before losing his pants Nathan Hindmarsh-style.
46 min: Pritchard comes up with a bone-rattling hit on Wade Graham and the ball comes loose. Replays suggest Pritchard has hit the Sharks five-eighth with the point of his shoulder.
46 min: PENALTY Sharks. Pritchard is placed on report.
48 min: Graham's cut-out pass to Leutele is at the winger's ankles, leaving him with no chance of coming up with the ball.
48 min: A delayed decision by the referees rules a forward pass from Stagg to Kasiano. Sharks scrum.
50 min: Again Stapleton can't come down with the ball after Townsend kicks to his wing. 20m restart Bulldogs.
52 min: Gardner does well to shepherd Hodkinson's kick over the touch in-goal line.
55 min: PENALTY Bulldogs. Pomeroy shows no intention of playing the football and takes Wright out off the ball.
57 min: PENALTY Bulldogs. Townsend pulls Morris back to the ground and prevents the quick play-the-ball.
PENALTY GOAL Canterbury Bulldogs
Penalty goal attempt by Steve Turner successful.
Turner extends the Bulldogs lead out past a converted try.
Canterbury Bulldogs 14-6
59 min: The Bulldogs strip the ball off Stapleton and the Bulldogs can now put the result beyond doubt here.
60 min: The Bulldogs shift the ball to their right hand side and look like scoring the try, but the Sharks get their hands on the ball and bat it back, but the visitors force the dropout.
61 min: TRY
TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Scored by Steve Turner. Conversion attempt by Steve Turner unsuccessful.
It was only a matter of time and Turner scores the try for the Bulldogs. Hodkinson's kick to his winger is pin-point and it makes the Sharks job almost impossible to come from behind now. Turner can't add the extras from out wide.
Canterbury Bulldogs 18-6
64 min: Barba puts the ball down and the Sharks get a sniff of good field position to perhaps close the gap.
64 min: TRY
TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Scored by Sam Tagataese. Conversion attempt by Nathan Stapleton successful.
Tagataese gives the Sharks some hope by scoring out wide. Smith delivered a perfect short pass before the big second rower bursts through Stagg's attempted tackle to score 10m in from touch on the western side. Stapleton closes the gap to just a converted try.
Canterbury Bulldogs 18-12
67 min: Barba takes Townsend's bomb well, but the Bulldogs are only 15m out from their own line on tackle 3.
68 min: The Sharks bomb again to the corner, this time to Best and the winger bats the ball back before Halatau bats the ball over the deadball line. Dropout Bulldogs.
69 min: Turner comes up with perhaps a game saving tackle on Leutele. The Sharks winger looked like he was bound to score in the corner, but Turner bundled him into touch.
72 min: PENALTY Sharks. Ryan ruled to have stripped the ball out of Gallen's grasp in a three-man tackle. Replays suggest it may have been a slightly beneficial call for the home side.
72 min: Stapleton comes up with the catch this time and he throws the ball to Pomeroy who tries to flick a pass out the back which goes into touch.
74 min: Keating kicks out of dummy half and finds touch 5m out from the Sharks line in an almost perfect kick for the Bulldogs.
76 min: Barba chips the ball over the top, but knocks the ball out of Gardner's grasp one-on-one. Sharks scrum.
77 min: The Sharks can't get to their kick on tackle five with the pass from dummy half finding no one and the Bulldogs are on the attack 30 out from the Sharks line.
78 min: FIELD GOAL
FIELD GOAL Canterbury Bulldogs
Field goal attempt by Trent Hodkinson successful.
Hodkinson ensures the Bulldogs will keep their season alive for another week with a well-taken field goal from 20m out directly in front.
Canterbury Bulldogs 19-12
80 min: Turner kicks to Barba, but the Sharks get back there in time to bat the ball dead.
80 min: Fulltime at Toyota Stadium and the Canterbury Bulldogs have run out 19-12 victors over the Cronulla Sharks.

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