Dan Walsh, NRL.com
Despite slumping to their third straight loss Sharks coach Peter Sharp said his side had delivered a much-needed improvement in their 14-12 defeat at the hands of local rivals St George Illawarra on Saturday night.
Playing off the back of the dreaded five-day turnaround the Sharks showed far more starch in defence compared to their 42-4 capitulation against the Bulldogs on Monday night but again came up empty handed as the Dragons held on to claim their sixth win in the past nine encounters between the sides.
Sharp said the Sharks had the ability to turn around their 0-3 start to the season, their worst since 2010 when they finished 14th.
"We were better. Our tackling was better," Sharp insisted. "We just need to keep working hard, because it will turn for us and we know that."
The Sharks displayed far greater defensive resolve as the Dragons made the most of a first half mountain of possession to build what was ultimately a match-winning lead.
Todd Carney's return from a hamstring injury was also a welcome sight for the home side, and the five-eighth proved himself a handful for the defence all night, getting held up over the line early in the match and consistently taking the line on.
"He brings a massive amount to our team," said Sharp of his former New South Wales pivot. "He might have been a smidge rusty but not very much. He was great, he improved our team no end offensively."
In the end, though, Carney's influence was not enough to get the Sharks over the line with a slew of dropped ball and four second half penalties coming at crucial points in the match.
The Sharks have now scored just 28 points in three rounds of football and desperately await the returns of representative forwards Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis.
Skipper Wade Graham, who was again amongst his side's best with 127 metres and 29 tackles, said there were a number of positives the Sharks could take out of the game.
"I thought there was a lot better energy there in our performance compared to last Monday night, so that's something positive we can take out of it," Graham said.
"When the chips were down the boys dug deep. I thought 'Heino' (Chris Heighington) and Isaac (De Gois) in the middle there really sparked us and got some momentum there in the second half."
Sharp said injured wingers Beau Ryan and Eric Grothe would both be monitored over the coming week in a bid for the pair to be fit for next Sunday's clash with Newcastle at Hunter Stadium.