Last Encounter at Shark Park
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs last encounter with the Cronulla Sharks on their home ground was back in 2011 and the visitors walked away with a 19-12 victory.
The Bulldogs strung back to back wins together for the first time since round seven as they outpointed the Sharks three tries to two, moving to 24 competition points with three rounds left to play before the finals.
For the second time in four games a Trent Hodkinson field goal proved the match winner, the halfback nailing a 78th minute strike to establish the seven point winning margin.
The strike capped off a memorable second half for Hodkinson, who earlier fired a pin point cross field stab for Steve Turner to score the Bulldogs third and final try to take the score to 18-6.
However the Sharks kept coming with a defensive lapse allowing Sam Tagataese to score, reducing the gap to six once more with plenty of time left on the clock.
In the end the Bulldogs prevailed in a scrappy encounter, leaving their destiny well in truly in their own hands with clashes against Manly (away), Newcastle (home) and Canberra (home) left to play.
The only black mark on the evening for the Bulldogs saw Frank Pritchard put on report for a bone rattling shot on Wade Graham early in the second half.
The Dogs made the most of their few early opportunities with Dene Halatau scoring his first try of 2011 in the 12th minute of play, running a neat line off Hodkinson to touch down 10 metres to the right of the posts.
Turner’s conversion gave the Dogs a 6-nil lead.
Both sides probed without result until the Sharks went to their pet play, skipper Paul Gallen turning the ball back on the inside in the 32nd minute, finding a flying Nathan Gardner who exploited the smallest of gaps to score adjacent to the posts.
Nathan Stapleton’s conversion locked it up at 6-all.
There it looked set to stay at half time until Greg Eastwood snuck a controversial 10 metres to put Ben Barba away for his 16th try of 2011.
All but held in the tackle, Eastwood shrugged his way out of it and found Barba looming on the inside, the Kiwi international sending his fullback in under the posts.
Leading 12-6 at the break the Dogs extended their buffer with a penalty goal to Turner 18 minutes after the resumption, before the winger latched onto the end of a beautifully weighted Trent Hodkinson kick to score three minutes later.
But the result was far from sealed, as two minutes later Tagataese slipped through the tackle to barge over, with Stapleton again converting to reduce the gap to six once again.
Both sides had their opportunities, with the Bulldogs emerging on top thanks to some stout defence and Hodkinson’s point.
Bulldogs 19 (Turner, Halatau, Barba tries: Turner 3 goals, Hodkinson FG)
Sharks 12 (Tagataese, Gardner tries: Stapleton 2 goals)