The Cronulla Sharks and St George Illawarra Dragons derbies are always spicy and this one was no different, with the Sharks triumphant in a nine-try thriller.
Overcoming injuries to Jesse Ramien and Chad Townsend, the Sharks held on despite a defiant surge from the Dragons.
The Dragons valiant effort was also admirable with the loss of both Adam Clune and Trent Merrin to head injury assessments.
The first try would go to the Dragons and it came from an unlikely source in Tyrell Fuimaono.
Fuimaono, filling in for Tariq Sims, pounced quickly on a loose ball off a strip to give the Dragons an early lead.
Not to be outdone, the Sharks would level the scores soon after.
A Shaun Johnson grubber saw Jack Williams win the race to the ball to score.
Though the try was mired with controversy as replays suggested fullback Matt Dufty had gotten to the ball first in-goal.
The Dragons would hit the lead after a Zac Lomax penalty goal but the next try was something to be proud of.
After some razzle-dazzle, Ben Hunt kicked crossfield for Lomax who caught the ball, grubbered ahead and won the race to the ball.
A brilliant team try and just the start of an impressive game from Lomax, the points gave the Dragons a bit of breathing room.
It would not be for long, as Sione Katoa nabbed his tenth try of the season in rather easy fashion.
Shaun Johnson then stepped up to the plate as all good halves do.
First, with a weave and a few dodges, he scored a try himself to prove that he still has those nifty feet.
Soon after, he delivered a beautiful play for Will Kennedy to score and the Sharks went into half-time up 22-14.
The game seemed all wrapped up when Aaron Woods barged over for the Sharks.
Though the Dragons were far from done.
Dufty and Lomax would again combine, as Dufty put on the afterburners and found Lomax who strolled over for his second.
Lomax would then turn provider after yet another combination between he and Dufty.
Lomax won the race to the ball after Dufty’s grubber and flick passed to Mikaele Ravalawa to score in the corner.
Several last minute chances gave the Dragons every chance to snatch the win but it was not to be.
Despite the toughness of the encounter and their narrow defeat, Dragons coach Paul McGregor wants his side to be better.
“They were much more physical than us in the first 40,” McGregor said.
“We showed effort and grit to be in a winnable position with two opportunities in the last three minutes.
“We have to be better at the start.
I know we led but they got forward pretty comfortably. We have to be a lot more physical.”
Sharks coach John Morris praised his side for not giving up and praised his side’s defence in the contest.
“After the 25-minute mark, I felt like we really started to run hard and turn the ball over at their end of the field and really ramped up our defence,” Morris said.
“We completed at 83 per cent and were 20 from 21 completed sets at half-time, which was really good but we played them back into and had to defend our way to victory.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Shaun Johnson
2. Zac Lomax
- Toby Rudolf