The Sharks SG Ball team kept their hopes of defending their title alive in scoring a 38-10 victory over the Bulldogs in their elimination final at St Mary’s Stadium.
The under-18 Sharks weathered the early storm before jumping out to a 26-0 half time lead before going on with the job in what was an impressive win and a welcome return to form after a couple of less than stellar performances in recent weeks.
The Sharks battled hard early before front rower James Roumanos broke the deadlock with a determined charge from close range.
Unfortunately five eighth Luke Metcalf was off-target with his kick at goal but the try had given the Sharks plenty of confidence in the early going.
Metcalf was next to score, backing up a line break and racing away from the next set of six tackles and when he added the extras from in front it was 10-0 the Sharks.
From there the Bulldogs dropped their chins and the Sharks capitalized, Semisi Kioa claiming two tries, winger Chris Tupou another and when the siren for half time sounded at 26-0 the Sharks were well in control.
The big and physical Bulldogs outfit came out with plenty of intent for the second half and again the Sharks stood firm, with neither side able to trouble the scoreboard operator for the opening period until it was the Cronulla team adding to their advantage when Kioa went over for a third four pointer.
Metcalf converted from adjacent to the posts and the game was as good as over at 32-0.
The Bulldogs managed to open their account but any faint hope they may have had of a miracle comeback was quickly snuffed out when Fine Kula crashed through some feeble Canterbury defense to touchdown for his teams’ seventh try of the day.
The Bulldogs crossed for a consolation try but it was too little too late, with the Sharks registering a win that will have the six remaining teams looking cautiously over their shoulders.
While Kioa was at his destructive best in the centres in touching down for three tries, he had plenty of capable helpers, with the forwards deserving of praise for winning the battle against their much bigger opponents.
Jaemon Salmon was particularly dangerous on the right edge for the Sharks, with Blayke Brailey and Lachlan Smith tackling themselves to a standstill.
The win sees the Sharks progress to another sudden-death final next weekend against the Penrith Panthers, while the Bulldogs are eliminated from the 2016 SG Ball finals.