All it took was a quick-fire seven minute blitz for the Cronulla Sharks to cruise to a comfortable win against the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Playing in their first game at the newly christened Southern Cross Group Stadium, the Sharks were clinical in their play with an even spread of quality performers.
That Dragons loss was exacerbated by a potential injury to Josh Dugan, who left the field in the second half due to a hamstring injury.
On the field, the Dragons shot themselves in the foot time and time again. Finishing up with a completion rate of just 51% in pristine conditions, that coupled with their lack of discipline greatly cost them the game.
There was a back to the future moment as Benji Marshall visited the days of old with steps, shimmies and jumps, bamboozling the Sharks defenders.
Both teams struggled early to get points on the board and settled for a penalty goal each, before a Ben Barba try opened the try-scoring.
Offering spark from the back, his run sliced through the Dragons defence and got the ball rolling for the Sharks.
The Dragons were still in the game at one point but failed to capitalise on their chances and they were put to bed when a grubber from Michael Ennis found Jayson Bukuya to score.
It gets no easier for the Dragons, who face the unbeaten Bunnies next week.
Defensive pressure was the telling factor behind the Sharks win but coach Shane Flanagan admits they were not tested by their opponents.
“I was really proud with the way they defended. They didn’t throw a lot at us and they dropped a lot of ball,” Flanagan said.
“But in my perspective, we can only defend what they threw at us. They didn’t look like scoring a try, so I was pleased about that.”
Although Dugan suffered a hamstring injury, Dragons coach Paul McGregor said Dugan could miss just the one week.
“He’s come up with a slight hamstring so we’ll get him scanned in the morning and hopefully it’s not too bad. We’re talking grade one so he’ll possibly miss one week,” said McGregor.
Their inability to hold the ball lost them the game but McGregor is confident that his side can turn that aspect of their game around.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance. We made 130 tackles more than them. They scored three tries off kicks. We were second best in everything which is just not good enough,” he said.
“You can’t be polished in attack when you don’t control the footy. Turning the ball over continually, you’ve just got no chance. Defensively I thought we were off as well.
“Our character has been tested before and we’ve come through really well. We’re a really resilient side and we didn’t show that today.”
Player of the Game:
3. Andrew Fifita
2. Ricky Leutele
1. Ben Barba
Sharks 30 (Ben Barba, Valentine Holmes, Chad Townsend, Jayson Bukuya, Ricky Leutele tries; James Maloney 5 goals) defeated Dragons 2 (Gareth Widdop 1 goal) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Penalties: 7-7. Half-time: 18-2 Sharks. Crowd: 17,946. Sin Bin (Sosaia Feki)