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Cronulla sent premiership hero Andrew Fifita off with a 16-0 defeat of the Bulldogs that kept alive hopes that he may not have played his last game at PointsBet Stadium after securing a top four berth.

While the lacklustre performance wouldn't have pleased coach Craig Fitzgibbon, the win ensured the Sharks a second chance in the finals and the possibility of a home final in the opening weekend if they finish second.

Fifita will leave Cronulla at the end of the season, while the Telstra Premiership's most capped player, Aiden Tolman is retiring, and the pair were acknowledged for their services on a night that also featured the NRL debut of Kevin Iro's son Kayal.

The Tonga prop scored the winning try in the 2016 grand final - Cronulla's only premiership triumph - and the capacity crowd rose to their feet in the 68th minute to celebrate his greatest moment for the club.

Fifita: 'Just a little kid from out West'

With the NRL approving PointsBet Stadium as a final venue in week one of the play-offs series if Cronulla leapfrog the Cowboys into second place, there is a possibility that Fifita will receive another farewell by Sharks fans.  

However, they will need to improve on a performance marred by 18 errors as the Sharks managed to get to the end of just 27 of their 44 sets of possession - a completion rate of just 61 per cent. 

Match snapshot

  • It took the Sharks 17 minutes to cross for their first try when five-eighth Matt Moylan put second-rower Briton Nikora into a gap near the Bulldogs line and he pushed off an attempted Matt Burton tackle.
  • Having enjoyed success by attacking Canterbury's left edge, Cronulla playmakers Nicho Hynes and Moylan again shifted the ball in that direction and a long pass to Ronaldo Muliltalo resulted in a second try four minutes later.  

Mulitalo ices the finish

  • Canterbury were denied a try when fullback Jake Averillo sliced through the defence to cross in the 51st minute but referee Todd Smith ruled that Raymond Faitala-Mariner had obstructed Briton Nikora from making a tackle.

Averillo try called back

  • The errors continued to mount for the Sharks and kept the Bulldogs in the game but Mulitalo relieved the pressure when he crossed for his second try 15 minutes before fulltime.

Smart Hynes kick finds Mulitalo

  • With a top four finals berth secured, the crowd at PointsBet Stadium, which included former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, rose to their feet to applaud Fifita in the 68th minute - the time of his match winning try in the 2016 grand final. 

Play of the game

Nicho Hynes is best known for his attacking prowess but the Sharks playmaker snuffed out a try that could have seen his side struggling as they held on to a 10-0 in the second term.

Hynes steals it from the Dogs attack

What they said

"We are just really pleased to win. That was an emotional week, on a lot of levels. We are really happy with that, it was tough fought and the defence was really strong considering how we hung on to the ball. We need to be better. We gave them plenty of opportunities to score points. We know we can execute better than that but that was an important win for us, internally," - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.

Sharks: Round 24

"I was really happy with our defence and to be able to defend our errors, I thought that was probably the best thing for me to come out of the game. We only conceded a few tries but it was a worry that we couldn't build any pressure with our attack. We need to work on that and we have got probably two training sessions to do it. Every team does their study on you and you need to keep adapting your attack, and I think we probably haven't moved forward every single week in trying to keep one step ahead of the defence," - Bulldogs coach Mick Potter.  

Bulldogs: Round 24

What's next

Having ensured a top four finish, the Sharks can now claim a top two spot and home final in week one of the play-offs if they beat the Knights in Newcastle next Sunday and the Cowboys drop a game.

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon is expected to have Dale Finucane (rib), Connor Tracey (HIA), Will Kennedy (ankle) and Toby Rudolf (knee) for the finals.

Star centre Jesse Ramien was placed on report for a high tackle late in the match.

For the Bulldogs, the season will end on Friday night when they host Manly and they await the arrival of new coach Cameron Ciraldo and star recruits Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney in 2023.


Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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