Canterbury secured a 30-18 win over a youthful Cronulla side in Saturday’s historic trial in Port Moresby as Cameron King’s horror run with injuries continued after suffering a suspected ACL.
King could be heard screaming in agony on the ground after his knee buckled when he turned in a tackle by Lachlan Lewis after a run from dummy half.
It was the former Dragons, Cowboys and Eels hooker’s first game back in the NRL after joining the Sharks from Featherstone as a back-up for Blayke Brailey.
At the time the young Cronulla outfit, whose most experienced player, Scott Sorensen, had made 25 NRL appearances, were leading 18-12.
However, three tries in the last 10 minutes earned the Bulldogs a 30-18 win before a 10,213 crowd at Port Moresby’s National Football Stadium.
The young Sharks stunned the Bulldogs early as they played an adventurous style and kept the ball alive on the left side of the field before fullback Will Kennedy sliced through on the right.
Match: Sharks v Bulldogs
Round 2 -
Venue: PNG Football Stadium, Port Moresby
Halfback Braydon Trindall converted from out wide but Cronulla’s lead was short-lived as Canterbury centre Morgan Harper replied just two minutes later.
Bulldogs winger Jayden Okunbor created the try when he burst into the clear from inside his own half and was tackled just short of the Sharks line.
Fullback Will Hopoate shifted the ball quickly for Harper to virtually stroll over for a try and second-rower Joe Stimson converted to level the scores at 6-6.
Cronulla centre Jackson Ferris looked set to score in the same spot as Kennedy when he found himself with just Hopoate to beat but a high tackle prevented another try.
The Sharks failed to capitalise from the penalty near Canterbury’s line after a stray offload from prop Toby Rudolf but they regained the lead soon after.
Five-eighth Connor Tracey was the instigator of the try after skipping across the ruck before combining with centre Vito Tavago to create space for winger Sione Katoa to dive over in the corner.
The Bulldogs gained the lead for the first time in the 27th minute when prop Dylan Napa barged over from close range after Okunbor leapt above Katoa to tap back a Lachlan Lewis kick and Stimson converted.
However, Cronulla went into the half-time beak ahead 14-12 after Tavago forced Hopoate into his own in goal for a repeat set and Trindall stepped his way across the line for 38th minute try.
The Sharks extended their lead when Tracey scored in the corner four minutes into the second half and they appeared set to go further ahead only for winger Lorenzo Mulitalo to be denied due to an obstruction.
Canterbury winger Jake Averillo, who had given the Sharks possession when he spilled a Trindall bomb, made amends with a 50th minute try after Lachlan Lewis combined with Dean Britt to create space out wide.
After losing King in the 60th minute, Cronulla were further depleted when Lorenzo Mulitalo was forced from the field for a head injury assessment after being trapped in his own in-goal.
To’omaga crashed over for his 71st minute try from the ensuing re-start and then burst through the Cronulla defence to set up the winning try for Isaiah Tass three minutes later.
Tui Katoa completes the scoring when he crossed in the corner in the 79th minute.