Sharks, Bulldogs limp into NRL finals

Cronulla’s habit of losing crucial clashes continues and Canterbury have again found a way to win ugly, with both struggling to impress in their final regular season NRL fixtures.

Cronulla blew a chance to secure a vital top-four spot in a 14-12 loss to Manly at Remondis Stadium on Sunday as Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey enjoyed a victorious farewell in his final game with the club.

The Bulldogs didn’t fare much better, producing a sluggish effort to scrape past the hapless Warriors 26-22 in the final match of the regular season.

But at least the Dogs tasted victory and can claim some momentum in notching their fifth successive win as the Warriors sunk to their eighth straight loss, a club record.

Dogs coach Des Hasler is a master of getting his side up for September so it is hard to read much into their lacklustre display. Canterbury suffered back-to-back losses to South Sydney and Gold Coast before last year’s final series on their way to the grand final.

“We have been one of the consistent sides and we carry a bit of momentum into the final series this time,” Hasler said.

“Finals are a different level of football, I’m pretty sure this side realises that we have plenty of experience in finals.

“Obviously with finals coming around it is a different mindset now.”

But for the Sharks, who are still chasing their first premiership, it is a different story.

Losses in recent weeks to Melbourne and Manly have cast a dark cloud over their hopes. Especially when they had so much to play for against Manly.

Having finished sixth, Cronulla will now host seventh-placed South Sydney in a sudden-death contest on Sunday at Allianz Stadium.

After sealing fifth spot, the Bulldogs will host eight-placed St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening in the other elimination final.

The Dragons again struggled but managed to get the better of Wests Tigers in a 32-30 golden point win on Saturday.

Sydney Roosters will host Melbourne in the first qualifying final on Friday night at Allianz Stadium after thrashing the Rabbitohs 30-0 on Friday night.

Melbourne beat second-placed Brisbane 15-8 at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night to move ahead of the Sharks into fourth.

The Broncos host second-placed North Queensland at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

The Cowboys beat Gold Coast 42-12 in their final round match.

Newcastle claimed the wooden spoon after losing to Penrith 30-12.

Semi Radradra scored his 24th try of the year in Parramatta’s 28-24 golden point loss to Canberra to eclipse Steve Ella’s 33-year-old season tryscoring record for the club.

It’s the first time in 11 years Manly won’t feature in the finals series.

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