Katoa hat-trick elevates Sharks to tight win over the Bulldogs

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Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Sione Katoa's first NRL hat-trick has allowed the Cronulla Sharks to hang on for a 20-18 win against a relentless Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday night at Bankwest Stadium.

Katoa's first try was his most spectacular of the match, as he used what looked like a rainbow leap on the right wing to score a solo winger's try around a defender in the 11th minute to set up a 6-0 lead.

Then in the second half he landed two blows within five minutes. Katoa put the Sharks up 12-6 in the 47th minute off back-to-back six-again penalties when a poor pass from Shaun Johnson went to the boots of Katoa, which the winger somehow collected at pace in rainy conditions to score.

The hat-trick was sealed when Johnson again was involved, with Brandon Wakeham being sin binned just moments earlier, to catch the Bulldogs short on numbers as Johnson's grubber for the wing meant Katoa could score untouched for a 16-6 lead.

Canterbury had plenty of fight left in them, as they closed the margin to four without Wakeham on the field through a Kieran Foran try that Adam Elliott created on a spur of the moment grubber kick towards the posts in the 56th minute.

Bryson Goodwin, in his first NRL match since 2017 and first with Cronulla since 2008, got the last try for the Sharks on an uncontested Townsend kick to set up a simple catch and put-down in the corner for a 20-12 advantage.

When Johnson tried to make the match sealing play with six minutes to go, his cut-out pass for Katoa turned into an 85m intercept try for Christian Chricton. Jake Averillo, in his fourth NRL match, took on the goal kicking duties for the first time and he nailed the clutch sideline conversion to draw the Bulldogs back within two points, which it stayed at.

Both teams were ill-disciplined in defence as they each conceded eight six-again penalty restarts and lost a player to the sin bin for repeated infringements (Briton Nikora from the Sharks, 34th minute, and Wakeham from the Bulldogs, 50th minute).

It took 28 minutes for Canterbury to find their first points when Wakeham, the replacement halfback for Lachlan Lewis, threatened Cronulla's tryline and twisted to pass for Will Hopoate to slip through the defence for his first four-pointer of the season.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak did his best Jorge Taufua impression with a crunching hit on Matt Moylan. To Moylan's credit he got up quickly after the hit. Moylan went for a HIA as a precaution, was cleared and returned to finish the second half.

The win for the Sharks moves them three spots up on the ladder to 11th after six rounds, while the Bulldogs remain in 15th and only separated from the Gold Coast Titans in last place on for-and-against.

Next week Cronulla will visit the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday afternoon at Central Coast Stadium and Canterbury returns to Bankwest Stadium for a Sunday night clash with the Wests Tigers.

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 20 - Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18

Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Crowd: 410
Halftime Score: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 6 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6

LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Sione Katoa
2 points - Will Hopoate
1 points - Chad Townsend

Tries: Sione Katoa (3), Bryson Goodwin
Field Goals:
Conversions: Shaun Johnson (2/4)
Penalty Goals:

Tries: Will Hopoate, Kieran Foran, Christian Crichton
Field Goals:
Conversions: Jake Averillo (3/3)
Penalty Goals:

See how it happened in our Match Centre