The Sharks overcame an average performance to steal a win from a depleted Dragons side 18-14 at UOW Jubilee Oval in Kogarah. The game was full of intensity, and the strong dislike of both teams showed through.
Southern Sydney derby delivers
A game that people thought might have been decided already due to injuries, the Dragons impressively ended up only losing the game by a stroke of luck from the Sharks. Back in round 3, the Dragons dominated the game in the middle and defensively were in fine form.
The first 20 minutes saw something similar, with a slim 2-0 advantage to the Dragons, and the game predictably being played through the forwards. Cronulla suffered costly errors that gave away possession and saw themselves craving for some form of control. As the end of the first half came, the intensity in the game sky rocketed, and big hits along with cheeky plays saw tensions rise. Players were sizing up each other, headlined by Chad Townsend and Jason Nightingale, and the crowd got into it with cheers and roars circling the ground. Among this, the Sharks struggled to get a significant hold on the game, and the Dragons handled their attack with ease. The second half saw glimpses of brilliance from the premiers, with a terrific try from Sosaia Feki in the 52nd minute, which diminished the Dragons confidence. From that point the Sharks had the best of opportunities, and most of the ball.
A tight affair once again, that will leave fans salivating for a possible rematch come September.
Sharks’ rue costly errors
They managed to steal a win from the Dragons, but the Sharks in no way will be pleased by their production. The Dragons rattled the premiers and forced many errors in the first half, and when the Sharks were not agitated they simply lost their touch on their own. The error count was a staggering 14 to the Dragons four for the entire game, with eight in the first half which hurt any chance the Sharks had at dominating the game most thought they would. A number of Sharks players, including Wade Graham, uncharacteristically dropped the ball which in itself led to a Dragons try.
Coach Flanagan said passionately his team needed to fix their mistakes, and with a tough match up against the Cowboys next weekend, those mistakes may hurt them if not dealt with.
Dragons’ kicking game still needs work
Even with Widdop in the team, the Dragons still struggled to attack well with the boot. With him gone, was it really going to at least remain promising? No. Josh McCrone has never been burdened with the duty of being the go to kicker while in Canberra, and he is still failing to fire with his boot for the Dragons. Numerous times in the game the Dragons either misjudged their kicks, gifting the Sharks a few seven tackle sets, or simply no runners were chasing the ball, with no enthusiasm noticeable on the attack. The Sharks have been a reliable team to finish sets and look for good field positon with both Maloney and Townsend being well rehearsed in that department of the game which at times put the Dragons to shame.
Ben Hunt’s arrival in 2018 will give them more flexibility in terms of creative ability, but for now and with a promising run for the finals looking imminent, the Dragons seriously need to sort this problem.
Defying some expectations?
The game against the Dragons didn’t show the Sharks at their peak, but what it did show was they can pull out a win when it looks beyond them to do so.
The Sharks were among a host of teams that analysts believed may not make the eight at the start of the season, including the Broncos and Bulldogs. Losing Ben Barba, and seemingly to have a fullback headache, that has all rolled over and Cronulla are no sitting comfortably second on the ladder with convincing wins over the Raiders and Storm en route. Moments in the game seemed to show the class of the Sharks backline, with Valentine Holmes combining on the left side to quickly run down the field and aid in Feki’s first try of the match. The passing was fast, the running was even faster and the execution was reminiscent of what we saw last year from the Sharks.
It was nowhere near a consistent performance, but it was good enough against a great, spirited side. There’s no pressure, no expectations, so naturally, their ability to succeed will not come with angst – lock the Sharks in for a competitive finals run.
Tries: Leutele (23m) Feki (2) (51m, 72m)
Goals: Maloney 3/3
Tries: Vaughan (27m), Packer (61m)
Goals: Lafai 3/3
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