Matt Burton’s field goal sinks Sharks in extra time

Jasper Bruce |

Canterbury lost an early lead but fought back to beat Cronulla in a thriller.
Canterbury lost an early lead but fought back to beat Cronulla in a thriller.

A Matt Burton field goal has sealed Canterbury’s 15-14 extra-time defeat of Cronulla and piled more pressure on the slumping Sharks.

After missing two attempts from long range in the final 90 seconds of regulation time, the Bulldogs five-eighth made no mistake with his third shot, directly in front from 38 metres out.

“It’s a bit of a goldfish mindset, I think. (Burton) is just so brave. It’s not easy to miss a couple and just keep going after it,” Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo said.

The winning field goal came just seconds after Sharks halfback Nicho Hynes had the chance to snatch Friday night’s game for the slow-starting visitors.

But in his first game since being axed as NSW halfback, Hynes shanked his attempt from straight in front at point blank range.

The miskick came two weeks after Hynes missed a conversion that could have sent Cronulla to extra time against the Dolphins.

“That’s part of the job and responsibility of your spine and playmakers. That’ll sting,” Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said.

“He’s got to dust himself off pretty quick and look forward to the next moment.”

Matt Burton.
Matt Burton was overjoyed to snatch victory for the Bulldogs with his late field goal. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

With a seven-tackle set in hand, the Bulldogs marched to the other end of Accor Stadium, where Burton sealed a victory that keeps the NRL’s big improvers inside the top eight.

“It could’ve gone either way but I felt like we’ve lost a few of those this year and it was nice to get one in the end,” Ciraldo said.

Ladder leaders through 12 rounds, the Sharks have now dropped four of their past five games and will rue slipping into old habits against the Bulldogs.

Coming off the bye, with almost their entire roster fit and without any State of Origin representatives backing up, there was little excuse for another slow start.

But Cronulla fell to 12-0 down after only 14 minutes, unable to defend early errors.

Viliame Kikau.
Viliame Kikau began proceedings with a bang for the Bulldogs, scoring in just the second minute. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“It’s frustrating; we worked on (the slow starts),” Fitzgibbon said. 

“We got back in the game, rolled the sleeves up, did the hardest part of the game really well, (scored) three tries to two.

“But you’ve got to ice your moments and we didn’t.”

Usually-reliable Cam McInnes spilt the ball on only the third tackle of the night and Canterbury turned the ensuing field position into points, Viliame Kikau beating Toby Rudolf and Braydon Trindall to his own kick.

Canterbury had their second try on the back of an offside penalty against Hynes, with Reed Mahoney scooting out of dummy half to extend the advantage a little too easily.

Reed Mahoney scores.
Reed Mahoney scored the second try of the game to help Canterbury to a 12-0 lead. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

The Sharks had numerous close calls, with Hynes’s inside ball to a flying Royce Hunt called forward just as the in-form prop looked destined to level the scores 12-12 with his try.

On top for much of the second half, Cronulla eventually took the lead when winger Ronaldo Mulitalo somehow put boot to ball in a tackle from opposite man Jeral Skelton.

Trindall rushed down the short side to score in the corner with 19 minutes to play.

In the final five minutes, referee Gerard Sutton penalised Cronulla prop Toby Rudolf for obstructing Bailey Hayward’s kick chase close to the line and Burton’s ensuing goal tied the game at 14-14.

It was the five-eighth who sealed the win in the fourth minute of extra time.