Sharks win comfortably in local derby against injury-riddled Dragons side

Wade Graham

The win was a huge boost for the Cronulla Sharks, as they join a host of other teams on 20 competition points and sit just outside the top eight.

Their comfortable 28-8 win over local rivals, the St George Illawarra Dragons, sees the Sharks gaining momentum and confidence in their play, with only for-and-against keeping the Sharks out of the top eight.

It is a different story for the Dragons, who have not won a game since Rd 12, when they defeated the Sharks. It is their fifth loss on the trot.

Injuries to stars Benji Marshall and Josh Dugan did not help, as well as suspension to representative forward Trent Merrin, but it was just not the Dragons day on Sunday afternoon.

They were out-enthused, outplayed and outworked by a Sharks side that were hungrier and wanted the win more.

It was a great way to celebrate the 250th game for Luke Lewis, who was heavily involved – scoring a try and setting one up. The veteran is currently the highest try-scoring forward in the NRL.

There was one positive sign, though, with talented Dragons centre Charly Runciman making the most of his return to the NRL, scoring a double.

It was all in vain, however, as the Sharks were rampant and put the nail in the coffin with late tries to Andrew Fifita and Ben Barba.

Patches of the game impressed Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, but he still wants his side to put in 80-minute performances.

“There were some real periods where we were showing our dominance.

“We were going 100 meters some sets.

“I can’t wait until we put 80 minutes together, we haven’t done that all year. We’re getting closer every week.”

That notion was echoed by captain Paul Gallen, who also praised his side’s dominance.

“As ‘Flanno’ said we play in patches,” Gallen said.

“We get to a lead and we don’t stick to our game plan.

“If we just stick to it as we saw in those first 20-25 minutes we were really good.”

Although the Dragons competed as well as they could, the injury toll eventually proved telling and coach Paul McGregor knows how much injuries can affect a side.

“It [injuries] have a huge effect on the cohesion with your attack and your defence,” Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.

“And you know having 13 of our top 25 out, it doesn’t help at all.

“But I still thought that after half-time we had a good regroup and went about our business and for 25 minutes we played with intent and intensity.

“We competed on every play and made everything a contest and we were right in the fight.

After five straight losses, Dragons captain Ben Creagh said his side simply need to learn how to win again.

“We’re in a tough position but we’ve put ourselves there,” Creagh said.

“Unfortunately at this level trying hard is not good enough.

“That’s what we’re doing at the moment we’re trying hard but we’re not competing hard enough like we were earlier in the season.

Player of the Game:

3. Wade Graham
2. Luke Lewis
1. Andrew Fifita/Sosaia Feki

Cronulla Sharks 28 (Sosaia Feki, Luke Lewis, Valentine Holmes, Andrew Fifita, Ben Barba tries; Michael Gordon 2, Valentine Holmes 2 goals) def. St George Illawarra Dragons 8 (Charly Runciman 2 tries) at Remondis Stadium. Crowd: 12,792.

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