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Sharks swim past Dogs in downpour to keep top four hopes alive

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2nd July, 2022
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Canterbury were unable to overcome the elements and a stoic Cronulla defence as the Sharks claimed an 18-6 win to strengthen their spot in the NRL’s top-four.

In front of 8837 fans at a rain-soaked Commbank Stadium, the Bulldogs were aiming for a third straight win for the first time since 2019.

But they came up short as Ronaldo Mulitalo, Sione Katoa and Briton Nikora scored tries to give Craig Fitzgibbon’s side their 10th win of the season on Saturday.

The Dogs kept fighting despite the absence of interim coach Mick Potter, who contracted COVID-19 last week, with fullback Jake Averillo grabbing their sole try.

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When Potter returns to duties next week he will be facing a mounting injury toll with Tevita Pangai Jr likely to join fellow forwards Luke Thompson, Ava Seumanufagai, Billy Tsikrikas and Jack Hetherington in the casualty ward.

“Hopefully it’s not too serious (for Pangai),” Potter’s assistant coach Craig Sandercock said.

“We’ve got the bye next week so fingers crossed, he’ll be OK because he was a big loss for us today.

“Whoever’s next in line will get a really good opportunity and we’re lucky we’ve got guys who play in the middle that can play big minutes.”

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Debutant winger Declan Casey was also stretchered off after a second-half head clash with Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita and was taken to hospital as a precaution.

There were 31 errors across the 80 minutes, but despite large puddles of water and testing conditions Cronulla were willing to chance their arm.

They scored the first try of the afternoon through an expansive play out wide to Mulitalo after six minutes, but Canterbury were able to deny them further success in the first half.

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Inspired by the defensive efforts of Kyle Flanagan and Matt Burton, Canterbury grew into the game with Averillo pulling them level after diving on a grubberkick from Jeremy Marshall-King on the stroke of halftime.

It was the only try the Dogs could muster after having 39 play-the-balls in Cronulla’s 20-metre zone with Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Kurtis Morrin both missing opportunities to add to Canterbury’s tally.

“It kept getting harder and even though we conceded that try on halftime I was really happy with our goal-line defence,” said Fitzgibbon.

“The Dogs really turned up physically today and we just had to keep finding a way (to keep them out) and I thought we held our gloves up there.

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“It was a slow grind but with the conditions, I was really happy. I’m most happy with how we earned it through doing the hard stuff.”

Nicho Hynes and Matt Moylan, who is enjoying a resurgence under Fitzgibbon and is tipped to sign a new contract in the coming days, steered the Sharks around the field.

It was Hynes who set up Katoa to put the Sharks in front before Nikora scored off a deft pass from fullback Will Kennedy to wrap up victory with 17 minutes to go.

© AAP

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