Kiwi Shaun Johnson got through an uneventful 62-minutes in his NRL return from a long-term injury but it wasn't enough as the Canterbury Bulldogs snapped their seven-game losing streak to upset the Cronulla Sharks 18-12 in Sydney.
Johnson suffered an achilles rupture when the Sharks lost to the Sydney Roosters in round 19 in the 2020 season, and the Kiwi halfback produced four tackles breaks and 95 run metres in his return to action.
Johnson was named on the interchange bench but a late quad injury to Matt Moylan meant he started at five-eighth for his first match in 217 days.
The Bulldogs have started the season with six straight losses but they made an impressive start to the contest with two quick tries in the opening ten minutes as they hunted their first win of the NRL season.
Sharks centre Josh Dugan had two moments he would like to forget. The first when Will Hopoate easily fended him off for the first try before he dropped a regulation high kick to see wing Nick Cotric grab a four-pointer.
Things went from bad to worse for the Sharks when Dogs fullback Nick Meaney crashed over before interchange forward Siosifa Talakai was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on Canterbury's Matt Doorey.
History was made at halftime on Saturday night when the first 18th man was activated. Doorey came from the field and failed his head injury assessment after Talakai's should charge, meaning the Dogs were free to use replacement player Brandon Wakeham.
Wakeham came on with five minutes remaining meaning he became the first 18th man in NRL history.
The Sharks made a bright start to the second spell when hooker Blayke Brailey stabbed a low kick into the goalposts. The hooker was first to react on the loose ball to grab Cronulla's first four-pointer of the evening.
Sharks wing Mawene Hiroti set up a grandstand finish when he reduced the deficit to just six-points but the Bulldogs held on to record their first win under new coach Trent Barrett.
The win sees Canterbury move level with the Brisbane Broncos but they stay last due to points differential. The Sharks stay in 11th, two points outside the top eight.
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