Forget form, forget the finals, it’s local derby time in what should be a Sunday Afternoon treat between Cronulla Sharks and St George Illawarra Dragons.
The Sharks scored the first try of the match when the unlikely Aaron Woods chased a fifth-tackle grubber kick. It settled the nerves of Cronulla, who were just as frantic as their opposition. Both teams spent the majority of the opening throwing the ball around and coming up with plenty of mistakes but the Sharks enjoyed the better of the field position. From the next set, Wade Graham burst through the line, and despite his best efforts, couldn’t position his support players. They moved the ball and scored on the opposite wing through Sosaia Feki. In a matter of minutes the Sharks found themselves a head by two converted tries. It should have been three when Bronson Xerri burnt the Dragons defenders only to watch his pass to an unmarked Shaun Johnson dropped. The Dragons were able to turn it around before halftime with Jackson Ford scoring his first try in just his second match. A Euan Aitken kick took a wicked bounce around Matt Moylan, who couldn’t recover to stop the young second rower from scoring sending the teams into the sheds with a 12-6 score to Cronulla.
An early mistake from the Dragons gave the Sharks an opportunity to extend their lead early. In that period of defence the Dragons lost Ben Hunt to a HIA but were able to hold the attack out. The Dragons were able to start evening the possession count off the back of mistakes from Cronulla but their attack close to the line was aimless and they barely looked threatening. Tyson Frizell went off for a HIA and the Dragons continued to enjoy their fair share of possession. And the pressure finally told when their makeshift half back Luciano Leilua slammed the ball over the line tying the scores up with fifteen to go. Both teams continued coughing up the ball and the Sharks found themselves on the attack. They appeared to score the match winner when Xerri was turned inside only for Cameron McInnes to come across with a spectacular try saver. But the youngster was able to cross moments later after a bomb was left to bounce and-despite what appeared to be a deflection forward off Wade Graham-the ball fell into Xerri’s hand who crossed untouched. The Sharks edging their way back into the top eight with a 18-12 win over their rivals.
STRANGE SUNDAY AFTERNOON
The normally fierce local derby took on a different complexion this time with a match full of mistakes and crazy moments. The error counts from both teams were high and even the way it was decided was a sign of the weirdness of the night. Off that kick the Dragons tried a trick play, dummying the first kicker for a second kicker to come through and, despite half the team being offside, it was no surprise that the ploy didn’t work.
CRONULLA LUCK THEIR WAY INTO THE EIGHT
The Sharks are back into the top eight but still have a lot of work to do if they want to ensure their spot for finals. They need to back up their performance with two home matches but they will want to forget much about what happened in this match. Their defence held strong but they bombed a few tries and, while the match still would have been live, their final try should have been denied.
The Dragons welcomed back Zac Lomax to the starting side but found themselves down to 14 players by the end of the match. Three players failed their HIA, which led to Luciano Leilua needing to fill in at fullback. And while being down on numbers certainly didn’t help towards the final stages, their handling errors should be the main concern from the match.
MCINNES STANDING TALL
The Dragons last month of football has been built on the back of effort and no player typifies this more than Cameron McInnes. The hooker has been a standout for the Dragons this season and has come up with two big plays recently. He got the Dragons back in the match against South Sydney with his charge down and chase and tonight he came up with a fantastic try saver. Again it wasn’t enough for the Dragons, who have a long way to go in regaining their confidence.
Tries: Aaron Woods, Sosaia Feki, Bronson Xerri
Goals: Shaun Johnson 3/3
St George Illawarra Dragons
Tries: Jackson Ford, Luciano Leilua
Goals: Gareth Widdop 2/2
Cronulla Sharks: 1. Matt Moylan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Dugan 5. Josh Morris 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Aaron Woods 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Kurt Capewell 15. Jack Williams 16. Billy Magoulias 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1. Corey Norman 21. Zac Lomax 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Patrick Kaufusi 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Tyson Frizell 14. Jeremy Lattimore 15. Korbin Sims 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Jackson Ford