Burton on report as Dogs lose to Sharks in NRL trial

Scott Bailey |

Canterbury’s 12-6 NRL trial loss to Cronulla has been further soured by a high tackle report.
Canterbury’s 12-6 NRL trial loss to Cronulla has been further soured by a high tackle report.

Matt Burton faces a nervous wait for the NRL’s charge sheet after being placed on report for a high tackle in Canterbury’s 12-6 pre-season loss to Cronulla at Belmore.

Burton was penalised for making contact with Sharks halfback Daniel Atkinson’s head early in the second half, forcing the playmaker off the field for a HIA.

Atkinson was falling in the tackle, and Burton will be able to escape with a fine if he is to receive a grade-one charge.

But anything beyond that would leave the star Canterbury halfback facing a ban for the Bulldogs’ opening-round clash with Parramatta on March 9.

In a match that looked every bit like a pre-season trial, the scores were locked at 6-6 for the majority of the second half before Chris Vea’ila put Cronulla ahead with eight minutes left.

That came off the back of one of 13 errors for the Bulldogs, while a Sharks side missing Nicho Hynes (quadriceps) also made 14 as both completed at less than 70 per cent.

Teig Wilton scored first for the Sharks when Blayke Brailey put him over, before Jacob Preston hit back in the 32nd minute after running onto a Josh Curran pass.

There were positive signs for a Bulldogs side desperate to rebuild itself, with new captain Stephen Crichton turning in 20 minutes in his first game in blue and white.

The left edge of Matt Burton, Viliame Kikau, Crichton and Josh Addo-Carr posed some threat with ball in hand.

Bronson Xerri then moved to that side once Crichton left the field, with the 23-year-old hopeful of a round-one chance after his four-year drug ban.

Questions still remain over the make up of the Bulldogs backline.

Blake Taaffe dropped two kicks in quick succession in the second half at fullback, as he fights to claim the No.1 jersey.

One option for coach Cameron Ciraldo would be to move Crichton to No.1, and fit he, Xerri, Addo-Carr, Jacob Kiraz and Connor Tracey into one backline.

Burton and Drew Hutchison look likely to start in the halves, while Curran also impressed in his first outing for the Bulldogs.

For Cronulla, winger Sione Katoa was able to stay on the field into the second half after appearing to injure his left foot early in the match.

Royce Hunt was strong up front with 172 metres, with their team largely settled headed into round one against the Warriors and Hynes expected to return.