Cronulla Sharks secure top four finish with 30-18 win over Canterbury Bulldogs

Cronulla have secured a top four finish with a 30-18 win over Canterbury on Sunday.

The Sharks will take on minor premiers the Sydney Roosters in Sydney in week one of the finals for a place in the preliminary final after finishing fourth thanks to the 12-point victory.

Cronulla have now qualified for the finals in six of the last seven seasons. They only have one previous top four finish in that time in 2016 when they went on to win their historic maiden premiership.

Finishing on 34 points, the Roosters, Melbourne, South Sydney and Cronulla could only be separated by for and against.

The Sharks put another turbulent week behind them amid the club’s salary cap dramas to run out comprehensive winners against the Bulldogs.

The win sees Cronulla enter the finals series as one of the form teams on the back of four consecutive victories.

Valentine Holmes continued his scintillating form. Last week Shane Flanagan joked the club would sell a floor of the leagues club to keep Holmes from North Queensland’s clutches. They may need to throw in Shark Park if the fullback continues to fire.

Holmes produced three try assists, scored his 21st try of the season and was strong defensively to help lead Cronulla to their 16th win of the campaign.

It was a poor start to the afternoon with Andrew Fifita making an error returning the opening kick off.

Canterbury opened the scoring with a penalty goal before Kurt Capewell crossed for his first try of the season.

Deputising for the injured Ricky Leutele at left centre, Capewell strolled over after slick hands from Matt Moylan and an unselfish pass from Holmes.

The Sharks made the most of two pieces of luck to extend their lead. With Cronulla on the attack, a loose pass ended with the ball centimetres from the touch line. Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate tried to let the ball roll out of play, allowing Sosaia Feki to swoop in and retain possession for the Sharks.

But video replays showed Feki’s boot had touched the sideline.

As play unfolded, Fifita crashed over to score. Replays showed Luke Lewis had run at Bulldogs five-eighth Lachlan Lewis to open up a hole for Fifita to run through. Though video officials dubiously ruled Lachlan Lewis had made a decision to tackle his namesake.

Cronulla were out to a 16-2 lead when Josh Dugan swooped on a pin-point Moylan grubber kick before Canterbury hit back with a try to Hopoate.

Former Shark Michael Lichaa had the Bulldogs back to a 16-12 deficit when he bumped off Jayden Brailey to score from a quick tap.

But Holmes produced another assist to see Feki tippy toe down the touchline to give Cronulla a 20-12 half-time lead.

Holmes then had a try of his own five minutes after the break after a delightful sleight of hand from Chad Townsend.

A Brett Morris try again kept Canterbury in touch before Feki scored his second shortly after, a simple effort from a scrum with the winger going over untouched after good work again from Holmes.

Leader Scoreboard

Cronulla Sharks 30 (Sosaia Feki two, Kurt Capewell, Andrew Fifita, Josh Dugan, Valentine Holmes tries. Valentine Holmes three goals)

defeated

Canterbury Bulldogs 18 (Will Hopoate, Michael Lichaa, Brett Morris tries. Rhyse Martin three goals)

at ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park

Leader man of the match: Valentine Holmes (Sharks)

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