Toothless Sharks sink as Dogs bite
Bulldogs 26 Sharks 6
Winning form ... Ben Barba of the Bulldogs makes a break for the try line. Photo: Steve Christo
A 40-minute offloading blitz blew Cronulla out of the water last night. Without Paul Gallen and Todd Carney, the Sharks, who were a shadow of the team that soared into premiership reckoning last Sunday, never looked like coming away from ANZ Stadium with the two points against Canterbury, who have transformed into a touch football-playing team of halfbacks under Des Hasler.
The Sharks and the Bulldogs have averaged more than 14 offloads per game this season, the most of any team in the competition, but Canterbury stepped it up another level last night to secure the win.
Sharks no match for Bulldogs on land
Bulldog's Ben Barba scores. Photo: Steve Christo
In a razzle-dazzle first half, the Bulldogs ran the Sharks off their feet, producing 12 offloads as they raced out to an insurmountable 24-0 half-time lead.
When Hasler arrived at Belmore last year he was welcomed by one of the most intimidating forward packs in the competition, at least as far as size is concerned. But he's developed and expanded their attacking artillery into the envy of every other coach in the NRL.
Most forwards in the modern game will tell you how their coach has simplified the game plan to allow them to focus on doing ''their job''.
That applies to the Bulldogs' big men but, unlike most of their counterparts, they don't do their job with blinkers on.
Hasler has his enforcers in tune with the rest of the team.
They don't just execute their job, they understand the impact the 1 per cent plays they produce have on their team.
They have the ability to play what's in front of them, producing tip-on plays, offloads and decoy plays that pave the way for their little men to score points.
It was quite a remarkable scoreline considering Cronulla ended Melbourne's unbeaten start to the season just eight days earlier, yet they never looked in the contest against the Bulldogs, who were humbled by the 14th-placed Gold Coast last Friday night.
But that's the NRL for you.
When it comes to skill and ability, not much separates the 16 teams in the competition.
It comes down to the attitude and the desire the players turn up with, which, after just one win in their last four games, the Bulldogs had more of last night.
Canterbury fans could be forgiven for thinking this season would pan out like last season, when they missed out on the finals by one position.
Just like 2011, they started this season with three straight wins before falling away to win just two of their next seven games leading into the representative period.
But any fears that Bulldogs fans might have had were erased on the Olympic Park turf last night.
It wasn't a complete performance, taking the foot off the accelerator in the second half, but the first 40 minutes was arguably their best period of football for the season.
Unfortunately for Cronulla, without Gallen and Carney they dished out their worst showing since round two against Newcastle.
Passion and intensity are words that have been synonymous with the Sharks this year, but they played without both of those qualities last night.
BULLDOGS 26 (B Barba 2 T Lafai J Wright tries B Goodwin 5 goals) bt CRONULLA 6 (J Smith try J Williams goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 12,012.