St. George Illawarra were again too strong for their arch rivals Cronulla who put up a spirited fight before eventually going down 40 – 20 at Wollongong’s Win Stadium.
Both sides started strongly and with plenty of feeling in the match it didn’t surprise anyone to see plenty of early penalties, but once both sides settled in they managed to play some good football with both sides crossing for two tries each in the first half, the boot of Saints’ Pivot Gareth Widdop giving them the edge going into the break leading 16 – 10.
The Sharks were down to 15 men going into the second with star forwards Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita both leaving the game with knee injuries, and it wasn’t long before they went down to 14 men with another key forward Wade Graham ‘tweaking’ his hamstring. It seemed then the Sharks fight was over as the Dragons compiled Cronulla’s injury problems by scoring two tries early in the second half.
But the Sharks never gave up and came storming back with two tries of their own before going close again only to be denied by the Bunker, at this point the Dragons again lifted their game to cross for two more tries to seal the victory, in the end Cronulla will argue the score line was not a true indication of the ‘closeness’ of the match.
The injuries to key Cronulla forwards not only made it hard for them on the night but could also affect them in the future, Shane Flanagan will be sweating on the results of scans for his two enforcers Gallen and Fififta with some concerns the Tongan International Fifita may have an ACL injury. Further injuries to Wade Graham and veteran Luke Lewis don’t seem as serious but they will be managed and monitored during the week.
In what was former Dragons’ Fullback Josh Dugan’s ‘home coming’ to Win Stadium the Dragons’ new No.1 showed they really aren’t missing the Origin Representative much at all. Completing a near flawless game again like he has done all season, Dufty also produced two sensational solo tries which will be all over highlight reels for the coming days. Dufty was able to showcase his blistering speed and agility taking advantage of half opportunities and making the Sharks pay, the Saints’ faithful would have really enjoyed seeing him do so against their former custodian.
Holmes Middle Finger
Whilst the game was close at half time the Dragons blew the second half wide open with two early tries to give themselves a three try lead, most people thought that was game over until the Sharks started their comeback and with the score at 28 – 20 it looked as though Dugan had grounded a kick in the in-goal to bring the Sharks within a try. But on further investigation by the Bunker it was shown that whilst trying to re-gather the ball Sharks’ winger Valentine Holmes made contact with the ball with his middle finger, it took many different camera angles before they found a conclusive image of the crucial touch, but again it shows this game is one of inches and sometimes faint touches.
Saints Go Marching On
The joint venture side have now started their season with six straight wins and the question is now being asked ‘How long can they stay undefeated’? They seem to have finally gotten the perfect blend of speed, power, game smarts and x-factor in their side after promising so much in previous seasons before falling away, season 2018 seems different. But their sternest test will come next week against one of the surprise packets of the competition New Zealand Warriors, the Kiwi side play a struggling Broncos on Saturday and if they can win that game it sets up a mouth-watering clash of two sides undefeated in Round 7.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“At stages we had to find something and we did, Cam ( McInness ) was off the field there at an important time in the first half for 10 minutes in the bin, we fought hard around that time of the game” – Paul McGregor
“I’m not happy with the way we’re playing our backs are up against the wall now, we’re going to have to turn up and win some footy game real quickly” – Sharks’ coach Shane Flanagan
Tries: Dufty 2, McInness, Vaughan, De Belin, Aitken
Goals: Widdop 8/10
Drop Goals: N/A
Tries: Brailey. Lee, Holmes, Leutele
Goals: Townsend 2/4
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 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Hame Sele
1 Matt Moylan, 2 Edrick Lee, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Trent Hodkinson, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham (c), 13 Paul Gallen (c), 14 Kurt Capewell, 15 Kurt Dillion, 16 Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17 Joseph Paulo