Nigel Wall, , NRL.com
The Dragons defeated the Sharks 18-10 at WIN Stadium in Round 19 last season in the second meeting between the teams in 2012 after Cronulla defeated the Dragons 12-nil at Sharks Stadium in Round 6.
In Wollongong the Dragons lost centre Kyle Stanley to a non-contact knee injury with just six minutes gone – a problem that continues to sideline the talented utility – before hooker Mitch Rein opened their scoring with a dummy and dash from 10 metres out for a 6-nil advantage.
Wade Graham replied for the visitors, crossing on the left edge with 27 minutes gone but they trailed 6-4 when Todd Carney’s conversion attempt was waved away.
The game turned on the stroke of halftime when an errant Carney pass down the right side of the field was snapped up by Dragons speedster Brett Morris who raced 70 metres to gift the Red V a 12-4 lead at the break.
Cronulla, missing skipper Paul Gallen, burst back into calculations in the 53rd minute when Wade Graham charged straight and hard onto a Carney pass from close range, the conversion reducing the deficit to two.
However Trent Merrin won the day for the Dragons when he galloped onto a short pass from Ben Hornby to sprint 20 metres to score with 13 minutes remaining.
It was a gutsy win by the Dragons given they conceded a mountain of possession to the Sharks, playing with just 44 per cent of the ball to the visitors’ 56 per cent. They also completed eight fewer sets and made 13 fewer runs overall.
However, despite those apparent shortcomings they still managed to outrun the Sharks, totalling 1572 metres to 1516 metres.
Dragons wingers Morris (11 tackle busts) and Daniel Vidot combined for a whopping 446 metres, while fullback Jason Nightingale chimed in with 198 metres and four offloads. Trent Merrin made four offloads as well.
Best for the Sharks was dual tryscorer Graham, along with fullback Matthew Wright (194 metres) and prop Andrew Fifita (126 metres, seven tackle busts).