A young Sharks side has gone down by 30-18 to the Bulldogs in an encouraging trial match outing at PNG Stadium in Port Moresby.
Fielding a team with only a sprinkling of NRL experience, the Sharks led 18-12 midway through the second half, only for the more seasoned Bulldogs side to get the better of the young Sharks in hot and humid conditions.
However while the result was one thing, perhaps more disappointing was what appeared to be a serious knee injury suffered by hooker Cameron King, with the Sharks number nine in distress and assisted from the field early in the second period.
Scans on King's knee on return to Sydney will determine the extent of the damage.
The match began well for the Cronulla side, Will Kennedy slicing through a poor attempt at tackle from Lachlan Lewis to touch down wide out.
Brayden Trindall converted to make it 6-0 and the Sharks had their tails up.
A long line break and subsequent try to the Bulldogs levelled the scores, before Kennedy was in the action again, this time throwing the last pass for Sione Katoa to score was of his trademark four-pointers when diving fun length into the in-goal.
After a fortuitous six to go call went the way of the Bulldogs it was Dylan Napa crashing over next to the uprights, with the conversion putting them in front at 12-10, but then off the back of a couple of powerful charges from young front rower Franklin Pele, the Sharks would go in again, Trindall leaving Lewis in his wake in dashing 10-metres to the line.
The Sharks number seven couldn't convert his own try but despite giving away plenty of NRL experience to their opponents the Cronulla side would take a 14-12 lead to the break.
Continuing to play on the front foot early in the second period the Sharks would extend their advantage, Connor Tracey crossing after a clever Teig Wilton off-load and they looked to go even further in front until an apparent try to Lorenzo Mulitalo was called back for an obstruction.
From that point errors and a mounting penalty count against the Sharks turned the momentum in the favour of their opponents, with the Bulldogs going ahead then pushing the final margin out to 12 with a couple of late tries.
Captaining the Sharks side, Scott Sorensen saw plenty to like even if the final result went against his side.
"We started strong but we're a little disappointed with the way we finished. It's a learning curve for the young guys and I'm sure they'll take a lot out of it," Sorensen said.
On a positive note for the Sharks, coach John Morris would have been pleased with the performances of a number of his unheralded youngsters.
Middle forwards Royce Hunt and Toby Rudolf held their own against the likes of Napa and Aiden Tolman, Pele provided energy off the bench, Trindall was dangerous and controlled the attack well, while Kennedy was enterprising early in the match.
On the injury front, aside from King, Ronaldo Mulitalo limped from the field early however indications were the problem wasn't a serious one, while his brother Lorenzo was replaced with a concussion late in the game.
The Sharks will return home tomorrow, with their next trial on Sunday against the Manly Sea Eagles at Netstrata Jubilee Oval.
Sione Katoa, Will Kennedy, Braydon Trindall, Connor Tracey tries, Trindall 1 goal