The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are no longer the only team yet to score a victory in 2021, beating a poor Sharks side 18 points to 12 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday evening.
Right from the start the Bulldogs made their intentions clear, with Dylan Napa making a strong run from the kickoff and going on to run more times in the first 20 minutes than he had averaged per game this year.
The Bulldogs were able to ride this momentum all the way to the scoreboard in just the 5th minute, with Will Hopoate fending away from Dugan and beating Kennedy and Williams to put the Blue and White's in front early on.
A successful captain's challenge in the 10th minute from the Bulldogs proved a great one as they were able to take advantage of the field position generated from the penalty to extend their lead in the 11th minute. Averillo's kick went right through the hands of Dugan and Nick Cotric was there to capitalise and score his first try as a Bulldog.
The Dogs were disallowed by the bunker just 7 minutes later, however a Sharks knock on would put them right back on the attack and they made no mistake with the next opportunity, with Nick Meaney executing a set play to perfection and exposing some poor Sharks defence to make the score 18-0 after just 23 minutes.
The Sharks weren't without their opportunities in the first half, with Mawene Hiroti having a shocker on the wing and failing to ground the ball and/or stay in the field of play at least 4 times throughout the night, including one that saw a potential top 5 team try of the year overturned.
It took the Sharks just 6 minutes of the second half to get on the board though, with Blayke Brailey putting in a grubber that bounced off the upright. Brailey had chased his own kick through and grounded the ball milliseconds before the Bulldogs player.
It would be an extremely scrappy next half hour, with both sides making basic handling errors and the Sharks unable to penetrate the Bulldogs defensive line despite ample opportunity.
When it seemed like the comeback would be a bridge too far for the Sharks, Mawene Hiroti finally got one down after finishing off a sweeping set play to the right. Chad Townsend made the pressure conversion from the sideline and reduced the deficit to a manageable 6 points.
What followed was an extremely frantic ending, with the Sharks' strong defence restricting the Bulldogs to just 20 metres and setting up a grandstand finish. The Sharks threw it around for an entire set of 6, but just as it had all game, the Bulldogs goal line defence held strong and didn't allow the Sharks to cross for a potential equaliser.
The Bulldogs will look to make it 2 in a row against an in form Parramatta outfit next week, while the Sharks are facing a challenging road trip to Melbourne against the Storm.