Bulldogs hold off Sharks for first NRL win

·3-min read

Canterbury coach Trent Barrett has labelled his team's breakthrough win of the year as the best of his career as a player or coach.

The Bulldogs on Saturday made history by being the first team to deploy the league's controversial 18th man in their 18-12 upset of Cronulla.

Canterbury survived a second-half onslaught at Kogarah Oval, including a 34-7 disadvantage in second-half plays inside their 20-metre zone.

They also had to withstand a furious finish from the home side, who had pulled within six points when winger Mawene Hiroti crossed with four minutes remaining.

It was the Bulldogs' first win since last September, and first of the Barrett era.

"That's the best win I've been involved in in my coaching career, even as a player," Barrett said.

"That was so important not just to the players, but our club, our fans, our members, and everything. Really proud of them. They showed a lot of resolve, determination, grit and care for the club."

However the game will likely be remembered for another reason.

Almost three weeks after the NRL rushed in a rule that allows teams to bring in an extra man should they lose a player for the game due to foul play, forward Matt Doorey was floored in the first half.

Doorey was left concussed after a shoulder charge from Cronulla second-rower Siosifa Talakai, who collected the Bulldogs forward under the chin.

Teams can also call on the 18th man should they lose three players to concussion.

Barrett didn't call on 18th man Brandon Wakeham until the 76th minute.

"I don't think it was intentional. I know it was a good shot, but his arm wasn't there. Those are the rules. But it is rough when you lose one and he didn't come back on the field," Barrett said.

The contest in front of a small crowd of 7420, also marked the return of Shaun Johnson, who looked sharp but failed to take advantage of a glut of field position in the second half.

Johnson, coming off an achilles injury, was substituted after an hour.

An upset loomed the moment Josh Dugan was left stranded by Will Hopoate for opening points in the fifth minute, a missed tackle compounded by his dropped ball to gift Nick Cotric a second try.

Completing the perfect start was a well-executed set play for Nick Meaney that gave Canterbury a three-try advantage, but also kick-started a flurry of fiery exchanges.

Bulldogs halfback Kyle Flanagan was penalised for obstruction from the ensuing kick-off - a ruling unsuccessfully challenged - before he pulled off a trysaver on Teig Wilton.

That lit the fuse for the visitors, with Talakai attempting his audacious shot that concussed Doorey.

It was the flashpoint of what was a frustrating half for the Sharks, who were denied six tries for the night and were booed off by their home fans at the break.

"It was a frustrating night. Our start was poor. Ultimately we created enough opportunity to win a couple of games," interim Sharks coach Josh Hannay said.