Four Pointer: Cronulla Sharks 9 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 8
It was a tough, nail-biting match that left fans of both the Sharks and the Bulldogs on the edge of their seats. The home side just got away with it once again, after halfback Chad Townsend slotted a field goal. This match didn’t give either side anything to brag about too much, considering both sides have a lot to improve on before their next match.
The Kicking Game Made the Difference
The score may make this evident, with a single point being the difference, however the kicking game that both the Sharks and the Bulldogs on made a huge difference in the end. The Sharks were stronger in this regard, while the visitors were poor, unable to gain anything from kicks. The Sharks managed to gain multiple repeat sets as a result of forcing four line drop outs throughout the match. This allowed the home side to capitalise on their opportunities and build pressure, which gave them the advantage which resulted in two competition points when they walked away from Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Neither Team Looked Overly Impressive
The Sharks and the Bulldogs were unable to play a solid game of football for the entire eighty-minutes, neither side looking dangerous enough to score more points than they did. While they were good in patches, the sides need to work on continuing momentum and improve their ability to complete full games strongly and intensely. The Sharks fired up in the final ten minutes of the match, which is when they won it. In patches, the Bulldogs looked like the stronger team, and looked more likely to score the points that would win them the game. Their goal line defence was strong in the first half, however it was not enough to compete with the intensity of the Sharks in the dying minutes.
Origin Players Were Missed
Both sides had a few players out as a result of the upcoming opening match to the 2017 State of Origin series, and it was clear that both the Sharks and the Bulldogs missed their key players who were selected by the Origin selection staff. Sharks were missing centre Jack Bird, five-eighth James Maloney and forwards Wade Graham and Andrew Fifita. The Bulldogs were missing Brett Morris, David Klemmer and Josh Jackson, who were all selected by Laurie Daley to represent New South Wales on Wednesday night. The absence of these players are in key positions on the field, which created a lack of attacking spark and some depletion in defence, which caused great suffering for both sides in all aspects of the game.
Normally during this time of the year, the NRL community sees Cronulla lock Paul Gallen leading the Blues in his captaincy role for New South Wales, however given his representative retirement at the completion of last year, he was seen in club colours on Saturday night, and was of paramount importance in the victory of the Sharks in front of a sold-out home crowd. He made five tackle breaks and ran a total of 240 metres, a few of those allowing the Sharks to be in the right position to pass the ball to halfback Townsend who slotted the field goal that won the match for the defending premiers. He was one of, if not the best on field for the Sharks, and proved how significant he is to the club on the field, after recently announcing he will continue on at the club into the 2018 season.
Tries: Gerard Beale
Goals: Valentine Holmes 2
Field Goal: Chad Townsend
Tries: Brenko Lee
Goals: Kerrod Holland 2