The St George-Illawarra Dragons claimed the Monty Porter Cup over the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks with a scrappy 14-12 win at Remondis Stadium on Saturday night.
In a dour struggle in which the Dragons were held scoreless for the entire second half it was Brett Morris who provided the highlights, with two tries, including a spectacular effort on the stroke of half time.
The Sharks fought hard and were resilient in defence, but paid the price for an over-reliance on Todd Carney in attack and have scored just 28 points in three games this year.
Going into the match as red-hot favourites, the Dragons hit the lead in the 4th minute when Morris scored his 100th NRL try. Gareth Widdop failed to add the extras and the Dragons led 4-0.
The Sharks were held up over the line shortly after, but scored a legitimate try soon after when veteran John Morris took advantage of the napping Dragons’ defence to post the Sharks’ first points of the night. With all the attention on Carney, Morris snuck over from dummy half to tie the game up. Carney made the conversion and the home side led by two points.
After 25 minutes, the Dragons came close to re-taking the lead when Morris dived over in the corner but the video ref ruled that he had his elbow on the sideline as he put the ball down. Replays suggested it may have been simultaneous and with the original decision given as a try, the Dragons can feel a little hard done by.
With just three minutes left in the half the Dragons took the lead when reliable winger Jason Nightingale took a Sam Williams bomb and touched down in the right corner. Widdop’s conversion attempt hit the uprights, and the Dragons had the lead, 8-6.
On the stroke of half time the Dragons broke the Sharks’ hearts when that man Morris scored one of the most spectacular tries ever witnessed as he leapt high to bring down a Widdop bomb and planted the ball while almost vertical in mid-air. Try number 101 for Morris, and Widdop’s successful conversion from out wide gave the Dragons a 14-6 half time lead.
The Sharks were denied a Holdsworth try in the 50th minute as both sides struggled to take the ascendency in the match.
In the 70th minute, Morris scored his second for the Sharks, and Carney converted to make it 14-12 to set up an exciting finish.
However the Sharks couldn’t land the killer blow in the closing stages of the match and for the third week in a row recorded a loss.
The Dragons put in their worst performance of 2014 but still recorded a win, although a vast improvement is needed for their Friday night clash with the Brisbane Broncos at WIN Stadium in Wollongong. The Sharks, were tough, brave and played well, but at the end of the day lost the match. They need Holdsworth to start taking the pressure off Carney or it could be a long year for them.
St George-Illawarra Dragons 14 ( Morris 2, Nightingale tries; Widdop goal) defeated Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12 (Morris 2 tries; Carney 2 goals) at Remondis Stadium.