Holmes sparks Sharks to secure top four spot
It took Val Holmes more than half the season to nail down Cronulla's fullback spot.
But heading into the finals and the Sharks' excitement machine continued his wonderful form today in a 30-18 victory over the Bulldogs.
Holmes finished with a try and three try assists as he once again showed why he is going to be Cronulla's X-factor in the big end of season games.
All up, the Sharks raced in six tries to three to nail down fourth spot and a date with minor premiers the Sydney Roosters in week one of the finals.
It also put to bed a week of off-field controversy surrounding the NRL's investigation into self-reported salary cap deals from previous seasons.
It was the Sharks' fourth straight win and while Holmes was the standout Matt Moylan also had some fine touches and looks ready to make his mark in the coming weeks.
Holmes' second half try took his season tally to 21, some achievement given he didn't score in the opening four rounds of the regular season.
It sets up a mouth-watering finals showdown with Roosters star fullback James Tedesco who has also been in terrific form.
Playing their final game for the Bulldogs, Brett and Josh Morris gave it everything while Will Hopoate had another fine game at fullback and up front David Klemmer again played strongly to push his claims for Kangaroos selection.
If it was a finals match there would have been a lot more said about the Sharks' 20-12 half-time lead given the second try to Andrew Fifita should not have been awarded.
In the lead-up replays clearly showed Sosaia Feki not only pushed Hopoate off the ball but then put his foot into touch.
The Sharks got lucky again when Fifita's try was awarded despite Luke Lewis running a decoy at Lachlan Lewis' outside shoulder that indicated a clear obstruction.
But the video ref ruled it was a defensive read by the Bulldogs' five-eighth.
The Dogs showed some grit to fight back from trailing 16-2 with back-to-back tries to Hopoate and Michael Lichaa.
But in the final minute before the break Holmes put Feki over in the corner and early in the second half the flying fullback crossed himself to open up a 12-point break.
Brett Morris gave the Dogs a sniff at 24-18 in the 53rd minute.
But just two minutes later Holmes' blinding speed opened up space for Feki to race away with his second try.
CRONULLA 30 (S Feki 2 K Capewell J Dugan A Fifita V Holmes tries V Holmes 3 goals) bt CANTERBURY 18 (W Hopoate M Lichaa B Morris tries R Martin 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 14,189