Edrick Lee scored the first of his side’s four tries in the Sharks’ win over the Bulldogs. (AAP: Craig Golding )
Cronulla Sharks have extended their NRL winning streak to five matches with a gutsy yet scrappy 22-16 defeat of Canterbury, leaping into fifth spot.
The Sharks’ win came after league leaders the Dragons showed again why they are on top with a win over the Raiders in Mudgee.
After a slow start and a difficult month marred by injuries, Shane Flanagan’s men are now have a 7-4 win-loss record and warming into the season.
With skipper Paul Gallen (knee) and Josh Dugan (foot) making their returns from injury, the Sharks weren’t always pretty but got the job done in front of 14,004 at Shark Park.
The Dogs only led once, after Josh Morris’ opening try, but came back to earth after last-week’s win over Parramatta, falling to a 3-8 record.
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita continued his stellar form, running for 171 metres and making 33 tackles.
His opposite David Klemmer sent a reminder to NSW Origin selectors with 233 metres off the bench.
After scores were level at 10-10 at half-time, Jesse Ramien sliced through four defenders to give the Sharks a six-point advantage.
The Bulldogs’ got their third try in the left-hand corner when Brett Morris finished off a sharp movement made possible by some quick hands from Kerrod Holland to get back within two points.
From the 43rd to the 67th minute the Bulldogs had a run of five penalties and the pressure eventually told when Matt Prior crashed over the top of Jeremy Marshall-King for what proved the match-clinching try.
Kieran Foran had a chance to set up a grandstand finish but grounded the ball inches short of the line.
Earlier, the Bulldogs struck first when Josh Morris left Ramien grasping at air to bring up his 100th try for Canterbury.
But an Edrick Lee response five minutes later and a deft Matt Moylan chip for Valentine Holmes soon gave the home side the lead.
Scores were locked at 10-10 at the break after Moses Mbye produced a brilliant tap-on for Brett Morris before the Bulldogs number one knocked over a penalty conversion.
The Sharks enjoyed the ascendancy in the second-half but a Mbye penalty goal got the Dogs back within six, however couldn’t find a way to send it into golden point.
Dragons edge the Raiders in Mudgee
Jack de Belin was one of three try-scorers for the Dragons in their win over the Raiders in Mudgee. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
An electric 50-metre try from St George Illawarra fullback Matt Dufty has edged the Dragons to a tense seven-point win over Canberra as they consolidated top spot on the NRL ladder.
Scores were locked at 18-all with ten minutes to go on Sunday when Dufty burnt four defenders on a scything run that brought the Mudgee crowd of 8,962 to their feet.
Dufty’s game-winner came after being involved in two incidents in the first half that twice resulted in Dragons’ penalty goals and a Raiders player reported on both occasions.
Canberra had a couple of shots on the Dragons line to force golden point, however Dragons captain Gareth Widdop sealed a 25-18 win with a 77th-minute field goal.
Dufty’s try also came after two more long-range efforts at Glen Willow Oval destined for highlight reels.
The Raiders were leading 12-10 when Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes scooted out of dummy half and hit a surging Jack de Belin, who found a supporting Dufty before kicking ahead for Widdop to dive over the tryline.
Canberra winger Jordan Rapana hit back with a 50-metre run off a quick tap, only to be sin-binned five minutes later for a professional foul that resulted in Widdop’s penalty that equalled the scores soon after.
The win means the Dragons remain two points clear of Penrith and the Warriors in top spot, while the Raiders remain four points outside the top eight.
The Raiders got over the line three times inside the opening 13 minutes but were denied twice, with Nick Cotric’s corner finish providing the opening points of the contest.
The Dragons responded through a soft de Belin four-pointer under the posts, before gifting one back to Joseph Leilua by bizarrely giving up on a play on their own tryline.
However some ill-discipline from the Raiders cost them a half-time lead, with a high tackle by Josh Papalii and shoulder charge by Joseph Tapine — both on Dufty — landing them on report.
Widdop nailed penalty goals on both occasions, resulting in a 10-all scoreline at the break.
Tapine was also involved in a sickening head clash midway through the first half that resulted in play being stopped, but was cleared by medical staff of any concussion.