The local derby between the Dragons and the Sharks did not disappoint after an entertaining match at WIN Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It didn’t take long for the first points to be scored, with Dragons’ Jai Field kicking a penalty goal after four minutes. Soon after, Bronson Xerri scored Cronulla’s first try of the afternoon.
The Dragons were awarded multiple penalties in the first half, which turned into possession and field position. However, they didn’t manage to turn it into points until the final ten minutes of the first half, at which point Cameron McInnes scored their first and only try.
The Sharks were given the opportunity to score a try, however, Feki’s foot was on the line when he took the pass. They were awarded a penalty not long after, and five-eighth Kyle Flanagan took a penalty goal to level the scores.
In the final few seconds of the game, the Dragons had the perfect field position for Ben Hunt to kick a field goal, sending the home team to the sheds with a one-point lead against the Sharks.
The possession turned around in the second half, with Cronulla dominating early on. Bronson Xerri scored his second try of the afternoon just five minutes into the second half after Kurt Capewell won the race to the ball after a kick from Flanagan.
Eighteen-year-old Xerri scored a third try mid-way through the second half, extending Cronulla’s lead to seven points. Blayke Brailey scored his own try for the Sharks in the final minutes to secure the victory.
The Sharks won their second game in 30 years at WIN Stadium, defeating the Dragons 22-9.
Matt Moylan’s Magic Return
Matt Moylan made his long-awaited return after spending seven weeks on the sideline as a result of a hamstring injury. He was named at 21 on Tuesday and assessed during the week, then named in the final 17 ahead of the match. He eased himself back into the Sharks’ backline without skipping a beat. It was evident early on that Cronulla’s attack looked more potent, particularly on the right side.
Dragons Injury Toll
The Dragons suffered a few injuries during the game against Cronulla. They lost Tim Lafai to an ankle injury early on. Tyson Frizell and James Graham also left the field in the first half and didn’t make a return for the side, putting pressure on the Dragons’ interchange. In the second half, they played with 14 limiting their interchange and forcing some of their young forwards to play longer minutes.
Sharks’ Right Side
The future looks promising for the Sharks with star players making their returns from injuries. Their right side comprising of Nikora, Xerri and Moylan looked extremely dangerous. Kyle Flanagan was outstanding, and with the return of Shaun Johnson just a few rounds away, they are likely to be successful in the second half of the 2019 season.
Good Time for a Bye
Both teams will enjoy next week off, resting their key players, particularly for the Dragons, for whom it couldn’t come at a better time. With some serious injuries, the week off will give these players extra time to rest and recover. Cronulla are expected to have some of their key players such as Wade Graham return after the bye.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 9
Tries: Cameron McInnes
Goals: Jai Field 2/2
Drop Goals: Ben Hunt
Cronulla Sharks 22
Tries: Bronson Xerri 3, Blayke Brailey
Goals: Kyle Flanagan 2, Paul Gallen
Drop Goals: N/A
St. George Illawarra Dragons: 1.Zac Lomax, 2. Jordan Pereira, 3. Euan Aitken, 4. Timoteo Lafai, 5. Jonus Pearson, 6. Jai Field, 7. Ben Hunt, 8. James Graham, 9. Cameron McInnes, 10. Paul Vaughan, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Blake Lawrie INTERCHANGE 14. Luciano Leilua, 15. Jacob Host, 16. Reece Robson, 17. Korbin Sims
Cronulla Sharks: 21. Matt Moylan, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Bronson Xerri, 4. Josh Morris, 1. Josh Dugan, 6. Kyle Flanagan, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Kurt Capewell, 13. Paul Gallen INTERCHANGE 14. Blayke Brailey, 15. Jayson Bukya, 16. Jack Williams, 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele