Sharks edge Bulldogs in tense NRL affair

Matt Encarnacion
Australian Associated Press
Sione Katoa has scored three tries in Cronulla's 20-18 NRL defeat of Canterbury at Bankwest Stadium
Sione Katoa has scored three tries in Cronulla's 20-18 NRL defeat of Canterbury at Bankwest Stadium

Dean Pay's chances of securing an extension at Canterbury have been dealt another blow, with the Bulldogs falling short 20-18 to Cronulla.

Sharks winger Sione Katoa claimed his first career hat-trick, while Matt Moylan also came through unscathed to breathe life into the Sharks' NRL campaign.

Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend also had two try assists each on Sunday evening to consign the Bulldogs to their fifth defeat from their opening six games.

Two weeks after his team bought Pay some time with their first win of the season, the off-contract coach will again be under pressure to earn a new deal.

The Sharks looked home when Bryson Goodwin, in his first game back at the club, scored to give his team an eight-point lead with 12 minutes to go.

However, a 95-metre intercept try to Bulldogs winger Christian Crichton set up a thrilling finish, only for Cronulla to hold on for a tense victory.

John Morris' side leap to within two points of the top eight in 11th spot.

The Bulldogs showed plenty of grit from the opening exchanges, conceding just one try in the opening 20 minutes despite being pinned on their own line.

Cronulla's kick-and-chase game was on point, dominating territory at Bankwest Stadium with an early 25-2 advantage in plays inside the opposition half.

An acrobatic Katoa try in the corner was their only reward, as Canterbury, led by Will Hopoate, ground their way back into the contest.

Minutes after wearing a jolting hit from Jesse Ramien, Hopoate was on the end of a neatly worked set piece to draw level at halftime.

Katoa reclaimed the lead for the Sharks when he made a mockery of the wet conditions to pick up a low cutout pass from Johnson in the 48th minute.

"I see those at training all the time. He's got beautiful hands. It just comes natural to him," Morris said of Katoa's effort post-game.

"In wet and greasy conditions, to pick that up off his boot laces like that, it was a real big play for us at that part of the game, to put us in front there."

The game cranked up a gear when Wakeham, a late insertion for Lachlan Lewis, was sin-binned soon after for repeated infringements in the ruck.

A grounded Dugan was being dragged to the sideline when Wakeham speared into him, an act deemed unnecessary by the referee, and put on report.

Katoa completed his hat-trick when he pounced on a Johnson grubber.

Four-pointers to Kieran Foran and Crichton gave the Bulldogs some hope, but it wasn't enough to prevent another close defeat.

"Really proud of the effort, the way the boys hung in there, keep fighting for everything they get," Pay said.

"We played a little bit better footy tonight, defended a little bit better. We need to keep getting better with what we're doing."

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