Words by Jack Brady , National Correspondent , NRL.com
A Ricky Leutele try and the ensuing sideline conversion from James Maloney in the final minute has seen the Sharks steal a 20-18 win over the Bulldogs on Monday night.
Maloney, who had kicked one goal from three attempts up until his final kick of the night, stepped up to the plate and slotted the goal to ensure the Sharks keep their nine-game winning streak intact.
In a lesson of persistence from the NRL Telstra Premiership frontrunners the Sharks reversed their 18-10 half-time deficit to keep the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half.
It took until the 57th minute for the Sharks to post points in the second stanza but it was done so in memorable fashion by Wade Graham, who held up the ball perfectly for an inside pass for Ben Barba to streak away.
In an otherwise uneventful second half, the Sharks equalled the ledger in the final 100 seconds when Leutele – who came on midway through the second half as an injury replacement for Sosaia Feki – crossed in the corner.
Leutele's efforts came just prior to Maloney almost scoring, denied by Kerrod Holland who knocked the ball from the five-eighth's hands. But it didn't matter minutes later when the veteran playmaker coolly kicked the goal to ice the two-point win.
Despite losing the first half was all the way of the Bulldogs. In his first game back in a month Will Hopoate had the ball rolling for his side in the 16th minute when lazy Sharks defence allowed him to run 75 metres downfield following a kick retrieval.
With momentum completely on their side Josh Reynolds dummied his way through on the next tackle to score the game's opening try.
Michael Lichaa helped extended the Bulldogs' lead to 12 five minutes later when he won the race to a Moses Mbye kick over opposite hooker Michael Ennis to score.
Barba's error over the try-line in the 24th minute was reversed three minutes later when Chad Townsend scratched and clawed his way to the line for his side's first.
Jack Bird's ability to beat Mbye, Curtis Rona and Josh Morris before producing a Matt Gidley-esque flick for Valentine Holmes to score helped cut the deficit back to two points in the 31st minute.
But the first 40 would be the Bulldogs' when Sam Kasiano crashed over for his second try of the season five minutes before half-time – though it wouldn't be enough for the home side by game's end.
Cronulla Sharks 20 (Chad Townsend, Valentine Holmes, Ben Barba, Ricky Leutele tries; James Maloney 2 goals) defeated Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18 (Josh Reynolds, Michael Lichaa, Sam Kasiano tries; Kerrod Holland 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 10,081. Half-time: Bulldogs 18-10.
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