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Sharks win arm-wrestle in gritty pre-season battle

A late try helped the Sharks snatch a 12-6 win over the new-look Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground on Friday night. 

After the scores had been deadlocked at 6-6 for 40 minutes, Sharks youngster Chris Vea'ila crossed for the match-winner to give Craig Fitzgibbon's men a hard-fought victory.

Both sides will be thankful for the opportunity to dust off the cobwebs and fine tune combinations before Round 1 with the Bulldogs racking up 17 errors and the Sharks 14.

Cronulla kicked off proceedings in the 14th minute with backrower Teig Wilton finding a gap from close range to hit the lead 6-0.

Teig Wilton Try

After both sides traded sets, Bulldogs looked to hit back in the 31st minute when a steaming Josh Addo-Carr found new recruit Bronson Xerri in support before Briton Nikora pulled off a try-saver.

However, Cronulla paid the price with Nikora sent to the bin for a leg pull and after being gifted another repeated set the Bulldogs finally capitalised when fan favourite Jacob Preston muscled his way over the line. Matt Burton converted to make it 6-6 at the break.

Jacob Preston Try

The second stanza turned into a stalemate with both sides coughing up errors and failing to capitalise on opportunities as the Bulldogs chose to rest stars Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr with 20 minutes to play.

Come the 73rd minute and the Sharks finally broke the stalemate with Mawene Hiroti making youngster Bailey Hayward pay for a loose ball from dummy half when he found Vea'ila on the burst who dashed away to score the match winner.

Match Snapshot 

  • Newly appointed skipper Stephen Crichton led the Bulldogs out for his club debut however was rested 20 minutes into the match. Kurt Mann and Josh Curran also made their club debut.
  • Fullback Blake Taaffe felt the heat under the high ball with four errors in his second game as a Bulldog.
  • Bulldogs five-eighth Matt Burton was placed on report in the 50th minute for a dangerous tackle.
  • The Bulldogs made nine errors in the first half while the Sharks made four.
  • Will Kennedy showed good signs in his first game back since Round 22 last year with 89 run metres and two tackle breaks.
  • Royce Hunt had a day out in the No. 10 jersey with 190 run metres, 74 of which were post contact.
  • Sharks backrower Briton Nikora spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for a leg pull on Bulldogs recruit Bronson Xerri.

Play of the Game 

Chris Vea'ila Try

What They Said 

"It was typical conditions' greasy, lots of errors out there, but both of us seem pretty pleased with the defence and spirit. We've still got Nicho (Hynes) to come back, Dale (Finucane), Braden (Hamlin-Uele) and Blake only played 20 minutes tonight. So we're a stronger outfit when they're fit and available and it would have been nice to give them a hit out tonight. I reckon Nicho will be right for Round 1, Dale will be and Braden I'm not sure at this stage." - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbons

"It was good for myself to get a 20-minute stint in with the boys and build some connection on the field. Just to get a run with the boys and get my lungs in it, it was good to get that game mentality back before Round 1 and I got a lot of confidence out of that. I think I went alright but I think we've still got a lot to improve on individually and as a team as well. So we'll look at the clips see what we can do to get better." - Bulldogs captain Stephen Crichton.

What's Next

The Sharks travel to Go Media Stadium in Auckland in Round 1 to launch their Telstra Premiership campaign against the Warriors, a team they were beat by in both meetings last year. They hope to welcome back star halfback Nicho Hynes who was a late withdrawal from the pre-season clash (quad).

The Bulldogs kick off their 2024 season on March 9 with a Sydney blockbuster against the Eels at CommBank Stadium.

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.