Dan Walsh, Staff Writer, NRL.com
The Bulldogs have put any perceived attacking woes behind them with a seven try 42-4 romp to record their biggest ever head-to-head victory over a severely outgunned Sharks outfit at ANZ Stadium.
Led by halfback Trent Hodkinson, who produced a try, seven goals, two try assists and a kicking game that kept the Sharks under constant pressure, the Bulldogs dominated from the outset in bettering the 38-2 previous best win against the Sharks back in 1986.
Co-captain Frank Pritchard opened the Bulldogs' account when he cleaned up a Mitch Brown bat-down from a Hodkinson bomb in the fifth minute before the halfback converted from out wide to give the Dogs a perfect start in front of 12,057 fans.
The halfback’s kicking game was on song in his 50th match for the club, as he repeatedly targeted Sharks winger Jonathan Wright with the high ball, resulting in a try and a repeat set inside the first 15 minutes.
Michael Ennis found himself the recipient of some old-fashioned Irish luck on St. Patrick’s day when the ball took a mischievous bounce over Sharks fullback Michael Gordon’s head from an innocuous grubber, with the Bulldogs skipper putting his side ahead by 12 after a quarter of the match.
Not to be outdone by his halves partner, NSW utility Josh Reynolds dummied and skipped across field in the 30th minute to find some suspect Sharks defence close to the line and linking with centre Chase Stanley to put the new recruit over on the half-hour mark.
Leading into the half-time break Hodkinson exposed some indecisive Cronulla goal-line defence to turn Stanley inside and put him across for an embarrassingly simple second try to send the home side into the sheds up 24-0.
The Dogs continued on their merry way after the break with Hodkinson again at the fore, as the halfback crossed in the 48th minute after a short ball from big Tony Williams to blow the lead out to 30 with a half hour to play.
The Sharks found themselves with a far better share of possession as the match progressed but lacked any real cohesion with the ball in hand and desperately missed Origin stars and attacking focal points Todd Carney, Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita.
Particularly concerning for coach Peter Sharp will be the six repeat sets the Cronulla side spent camped in the Dogs red zone only to rarely threaten the defence with a flat attack and poor fifth-tackle options.
In a night where the home side could do no wrong outside backs Corey Thompson and Josh Morris also got themselves across the stripe late in the match, with Thompson’s 60th-minute touchdown his first try in just his second top-flight match before Sharks winger Jonathan Wright got himself a consolation try in the final seconds.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 42 (Stanley 2, Pritchard, Ennis, Hodkinson, Thompson, Morris tries; Hodkinson 7 goals) def. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 4 (Wright try) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 12,057.