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Gallen inspires Sharks to NRL comeback

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/05/2017 Matt Encarnacion

A powerhouse performance from skipper Paul Gallen has inspired Cronulla to a thrilling 9-8 comeback NRL win over Canterbury in front of their biggest crowd in half a decade.

Gallen twice came up with critical plays to set up Saturday night's victory, including a 25-metre run in the lead-up to Chad Townsend's 78th-minute field goal that broke an 8-8 deadlock.

The former NSW State of Origin skipper also turned the game when, with his team down by six points with 13 minutes to play, he picked up a grubber in-goal and just managed to force his way back into the field of play.

Three plays later, Gerard Beale finished off a 50-metre movement for their first try of the match, with Valentine Holmes' conversion setting up a grandstand finish for the sellout crowd of 20,497.

With four stars away on Origin duty, Gallen - playing in his first club game during Origin since 2010 - finished with a team-high 181 metres and three tackle breaks.

The win extends Cronulla's winning streak to three and consolidates their top-four spot, while the defeat for the Bulldogs is compounded by a shoulder injury to skipper James Graham.

In an evenly contested opening 40 minutes, Cronulla started the brightest and took a 2-0 lead with a Holmes penalty goal in the eighth minute.

Aided by the opening five penalties, the Sharks dominated the early battle but were held tryless in the first half for the second straight week by a stingy Bulldogs defence.

Not even the loss of Graham midway through the period deterred the determination of the visitors, who nabbed the only try of the half through Brenko Lee on the 26-minute mark.

The former Canberra centre stepped sharply off his right foot to change the angle on a Moses Mbye pass and help set up a 6-2 lead at the break.

Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman was arguably his side's best, playing the entire 80 minutes in the absence of Graham and finished with 120 metres and 44 tackles.

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