Cronulla Sharks 20 def St George Illawarra 16
The Cronulla Sharks defeated the St George Illawarra Dragons tonight under a cloud of controversy. In what should have been a much celebrated win for the Sharks, the victory was marred by Sharks players ‘feigning injury’ in an effort to get valuable penalties for their side.
The game reached boiling point, when 7 minutes into the second half – Dykes stayed down after copping an Adam Peek elbow after getting a kick away. Make no mistake, it was a brain explosion from Adam Peek and most certainly deserved a penalty and reporting of the incident.
As Adam Dykes continued to stay down, referee Tony Archer marched Adam Peek from the field. As stunned players from both sides looked on, Dykes soon got back to his feet and was continually booed by the OKI Jubilee Crowd – as the Dragons were left to play on with 12 men.
In the Canberra vs Parramatta game this weekend, we had Eel Josh Cordoba severely concussed by Raider Michael Weymann. Cordoba taken from the field, taking no further part due to injury – with Raider Weymann just copping a penalty. Tonight, we see Peek ‘clip’ Dykes on the way through and he is sent from the field. Simply dumbfounding.
Sadly, I feel this is a massive turning point for the game of NRL. For the remainder of tonights match, we saw players continuing to stay down and doing their best to get results from the officials. FOX TV Camera’s caught Paul Gallen red handed, when the Sharks forward feigned injury from a tackle and soon winked at players once the penalty had been given. This is a sad reflection on Paul Gallen, a tough and talented player – who will now be tarnished by this unsportsmanlike behavior. If the NRL doesn’t make urgent changes to the games rules, our game is surely going to suffer.
Moving back to the positives from tonights game, the Sharks defence ultimately won them the game. The Sharks have the second best defence in the NRL and the needed every ounce of their skill tonight. With the Dragons playing a man down, the referee continued to assist them with make up penalties, giving the Dragons plenty of possession in the second half. (Interestingly, NRL stats read that when a player is sent from the field – his team usually always win the penalty count)
The Dragons set completion was impressive, but they lacked good options on the last tackle. Too many times, the solid Sharks defence forced the Dragons to rush their kick plays and repeat sets were rarely achieved. Soward was involved in everything, and certainly looks to be a good signing for the Dragons. Ritchie Rich was welcomed back into the top grade and the motormouth let his skills do the talking, with some nice touches and an impressive try early.
The Sharks really missed Lance Thompson tonight, and after losing Phil Leuluai to injury early on – the signs looked ominous for the Shire boys. Adam Dykes played well in the absence of Kimmorley and organised the attack well. Dykes does seem to play much less inhibited when Kimmorley isn’t there. His commanding role settling the Sharks at crucial times.
Cronulla also got good service from Kevin Kingston and Issac De Gois – the two hookers pinching metres all night and forcing Saints on to the back foot. The Sharks have really steeled themselves under Ricky Stuart – their on line defence is top shelf. Each player knows their role, and is working overtime for each other.
The Sharks outside backs looked better for the positional reshuffle, with Luke Covell moving into the centres and having another solid night. Fullback ‘Tell your pappa’ again proving a real option for the Sharks, the new fullback is safe under the high ball and later pulling off a try saver by preventing Chase Stanley from scoring off a bomd – which would have tied the game for the Dragons. New boy Mitch Brown didn’t put a foot wrong for the Cronulla Sharks, at one stage pulling off a heart stopping intercept which stopped another Dragons surge.
Next week the Dragons travel to Parramatta Stadium in what should be a tough assignment for the Red Vee. Nathan Brown was understandably downcast in the press conference tonight and the pain looks like continuing for the young coach.
The Sharks are back at home to the Warriors, in what should be a very spicy game. As tonight Sharks coach Ricky Stuart told the waiting media of his frustration at Ivan Cleary – who believes that Stuart “Coaches his players to stay down.”