Match Report: Ice-cool Maloney seals last-minute win
The Cronulla Sharks have scored a dramatic 2-point win over the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.
A flurry of late points for the Sharks saw the side to a win, with James Maloney slotting a sideline conversion with only seconds remaining to send the side back to the top of the NRL ladder.
Despite coming from behind late, it was the Sharks who had thought they had opened the scoring when winger Sosaia Feki crossed over on the left edge.
The try went to the Bunker and on review showed that Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds had forced the Sharks number 2 into touch.
From the ensuing set, William Hopoate fielded the ball deep within his own half and broke away up field.
Ben Barba made the last-ditch tackle on the Bulldogs fullback however the retreating Sharks defence was no match for a fleet-footed Josh Reynolds who broke through the defence to score under the posts.
Kerrod Holland added the extras to take the score to 6-0.
James Maloney got the game back underway and both sides continued to trade blows in the middle of the field.
With the Bulldogs in good field position, Moses Mbye put a deft grubber into the in-goal.
Sharks hooker Michael Ennis looked to field the ball as he turned however was unable to hold the pill as his opposite number Michael Lichaa pounced on the loose ball to edge the Bulldogs further ahead.
Holland added the extras to take the score to 12-0 after 21 minutes.
The Sharks began to earn the rub of the green, which was compounded more by a penalty kick from Moses Mbye which failed to find touch.
From here, the Sharks worked their way into the Bulldogs red zone and half back Chad Townsend attacked the line himself to burrow over for a potential Sharks four-pointer.
After the going to the Bunker, the try was awarded and the Sharks were on the board.
Maloney converted and took the score to 12-6.
The Sharks continued to press the Canterbury line and after a great show of strength and a soft flick pass, Jack Bird found Valentine Holmes on the right wing to record his 11th try of the season.
The Sharks were unable to keep the pressure on the hosts though as the Bulldogs worked their way up field into good attacking position.
Bulldogs big man Sam Kasiano received the ball metres out from the Sharks line and was too strong, barging over to take his side’s lead to 16-10.
Holland converted and the score remained 18-10 at the break.
When the sides returned from the break, the Sharks were unable to make any genuine field position, with the home side dominating the early stages.
The Sharks seemed to have been given a life line when Michael Lichaa was penalised for a lifting tackle on Heighington however Sam Tagataese looked to offload early in the set only for the ball to be intercepted.
The Bulldogs marched up field and forced the pressure right on the Sharks after Ben Barba fielded a grubber in goal, giving the Bulldogs a repeat set of six.
The home side were unable to convert the pressure into points as Jack Bird fielded a bomb inside the in goal.
From here, the middle period of the game became an arm wrestle, with the Sharks resolve being met by the Bulldogs line speed.
After a shared series of possession, it was the former Bulldog star Ben Barba who broke the deadlock, finding himself unmarked off an inside ball from Wade Graham to take the score to 18-14 in the 57th minute.
James Maloney was unable to add the extras and the score remained 18-14.
The Sharks were given a repreive after the kick-off with the Bulldogs giving away a penalty in the middle of the field.
The Sharks then thought they had taken the lead through Ricky Leutele however when the decision went upstairs, the Bunker found the centre's foot to have gone into touch.
From here, the visitors continued to apply the blow torch, forcing a line drop out with 15 minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs held strong in defence though, forcing the Sharks to make simple errors and let the game slowly get away.
After a wealth of possession, the Sharks broke up field through Gerard Beale.
The Kiwi centre toed through for his team mates Ben Barba and James Maloney however the Bulldogs beat both to the ball and knocked on resulting in a Sharks scrum 10m out.
The Sharks then pressured the Bulldogs line and looked to have got themselves back into the contest, only to be denied by the Bunker upon review.
But not to be deterred having been turned away with only minutes remaining, the Sharks came again and found late points to equalise.
Ricky Leutele finished off a well-worked backline move to cross, with Maloney nailing the sideline conversion - albeit off the uprights - to seal the win.
CRONULLA SHARKS - 20
TRIES: Townsend, Holmes, Barba, Leutele | GOALS: Maloney (2/4)
DEF. CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS - 18
TRIES: Reynolds, Lichaa, Kasiano | GOALS: Holland (3/3)