The Dragons overcame their bitter cross town rivals the Sharks in a mistake-riddled fixture in front of a packed Southern Cross Stadium. Neither side would be happy with their ball control but the Saints were able to hang onto it for long enough to take the two competition points.
Cronulla started the game the better of the two sides with their pack rolling forward halfback Chad Townsend was pulling the strings and put on the first try for back-rower Jayson Bukuya inside 15 minutes. As the Sharks continued to dominate possession and field position the Dragons continued to hand the ball over and after another try to winger Sosaia Feki the Sharks led 14-0. The Dragons struck back just before half time through a miraculous try to winger Nene McDonald as he out leaped Valentine Holmes to take a cross field kick and somehow ground the ball in the in-goal.
When the sides came out after half time the roles were reversed and it was the Dragons who were controlling possession as the Sharks continued to turn the ball over. The Red-V transformed their possession into points as they crossed for two more tries to hold the Sharks try-less in the second half and claim victory.
Dragons slow starters
Two weeks in a row now the Dragons have started games poorly by turning the ball over and giving away silly penalties, but for the second week in a row they were able to over come the slow start and power home for a win. Coach Paul McGregor was undoubtedly happy with the victory but will be concerned about the way his side have started their first two matches of season 2018.
Nightingale sin bin
In what looked to be a possible turning point in the match Sharks winger Feki took an intercept and ran down the field with the play ending with Saints winger Jason Nightingale being sent to the sin bin for a professional foul. Expecting that the Sharks would take advantage of the one man overlap they surprisingly took the penalty goal to equal the score, after this the Sharks dropped the ball off the kick off and went on to give away multiple turn overs and penalties to gift Gareth Widdop two penalty goals which in the end handed victory to the Dragons.
Tale of two halves
What ever Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said to his players at half time he should never say it again after the Sharks put together a near perfect first half completing 91% of their sets they returned in the second half a different side as their ball control and discipline went out the window. Flanagan will be left scratching his head to why his side went so far off the boil in the second half, maybe the advantage of playing with the wind in the first half was a bigger factor than expected or maybe his side simply got complacent, either way the Sharks have started season 2018 with two losses.
Sharks fullback dilemma
Much has been made leading into the season about who would wear the Sharks No.1 jersey with incumbent Val Holmes struggling there last season coupled with the addition of former NSW State of Origin fullbacks Josh Dugan and Matty Moylan. After a mistake riddled game at the back last week the pressure was on Flanagan to move Holmes back to the wing where he dominates and push Dugan to fullback, whilst Holmes had the No.1 on his back Dugan started the game there as both players split time in the custodian role.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“It wasn’t a pretty win out here tonight but we’ll take the win for sure” – Gareth Widdop
“We were very happy with the first half we had no field position and the Sharks were 21 from 22 playing some good footy with a fair breeze, so we just needed to swing that possession around and keep the Sharks under 16 points which we did tonight so it was good” – Paul McGregor
“Really disappointing only one error in the first half then we trotted ten out in the second half, they’d probably be disappointed in their first half and we were terribly disappointed with our second half” – Shane Flanagan
“We were our own worst enemy in the second half and we have no one else to blame but our selves, we’ve spoken about it inside it’s everybody across the board” – Paul Gallen
St. George Illawarra Dragons 20
Tries: N.McDonald, T.Frizzell & E.Aitken
Goals: G. Widdop 4/5
Drop Goals: n/a
Cronulla Sharks 16
Tries: J.Bukuya & S.Feki
Goals: C.Townsend 4/4
Drop Goals: n/a
Dragons: 1 Matthew Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack De Belin, 14 Luciano Leilua, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 18 Jeremy Latimore
Sharks: 3 Josh Duagn, 2 Sosaia Feki, 1 Valentine Holmes, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Aaron Gray, 6 Matthew Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matthew Prior, 11 Jayson Bukuya, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen (c), 14 Kurt Capewell, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17 Joseph Paulo