THE Dragons defeated the Sharks for the second time this season, to extend Cronulla’s losing streak to nine consecutive matches, and compound the Shire side’s horror fortnight.
After all sorts of drama away from the football field, Cronulla got some more on it when captain Paul Gallen was accused of a racial slur towards Mickey Paea; although the Dragons replacement prop refused to lodge an official complaint the NRL later slapped Gallen with a $10,000 fine, concluding there had been a racial issue.
The game itself was pretty ho-hum, with the two sides grinding out a dour first half before the Dragons strangled the Sharks out of the contest with consistent completions and field position in the second half.
They turned a 4-0 lead into a 26-4 victory, with winger Brett Morris snaring a hat-trick and halfback Ben Hornby banking a double.
With a 79 per cent completion rate for the Dragons compared to the Sharks’ 63 per cent it was always going to be a struggle for the home side. They are horribly out of form.
The result leaves them anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder while the Dragons remain in equal first position heading into the Origin period.
The Game Swung When… The Dragons closed out the match in a 16-minute frenzy that netted four tries. Between the 49th and 65th minutes both Brett Morris and Ben Hornby scored two tries each to blow the score out from 4-0 to 26-0 and quash the hopes of the home fans.
Having dug deep in the first 40 minutes, the Sharks just couldn’t replicate the form in the second stanza and they were duly punished.
Who Was Hot… Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward (two try assists, two line breaks, three offloads, 16 tackles, 76 metres) provided some quality touches when they were needed, as did Matt Cooper (try assist, 27 tackles, three offloads) and Ben Hornby (two tries, line break, 17 tackles), while forwards Dean Young, Justin Poore and Michael Weyman were all strong.
Young notched 43 tackles and still ran for 75 metres, Poore ran for 122 metres and added 24 tackles while Weyman also made 24 tackles to go with his 129 metres in just 36 minutes.
Brett Morris (three tries, two line breaks, six tackle breaks, 115 metres) finished expertly as usual and looks set to become a real ‘player’ on the open market in coming weeks.
As usual Paul Gallen tried hard for the Sharks. He posted 169 metres and 25 tackles.
Who Was Not… The Sharks’ forwards had very little strength in attack, but that was possibly due to the excess tackling they were forced to do. After Gallen, the next best Sharks forward runner was Luke Douglas at just 90 metres gained.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Wendell Sailor provided the highlight of the first half with a big tackle on Blake Ferguson. The young Sharks winger cut back inside right into the path of ‘Big Dell’ who ironed him out flat after driving him back several metres.
As far as tries go, Morris’ third try was the pick of the bunch. Jamie Soward chipped and chased for himself, regathered in traffic and then flicked the ball out the back to an almost surprised Matt Cooper who drew the defence before finding Morris. The elusive winger then stepped back inside both Luke Covell and Ben Pomeroy to notch up his hat-trick.
Injuries… Bronx Goodwin spent most of the match on the sideline and it appears he’ll stay there for an extended period after suffering a leg injury.
Justin Poore collected an accidental knee from Trent Barrett in the back but suffered only some minor bruising and played on.
Bad Boys… This section could have included Paul Gallen but won’t now while Reece Williams might want to think twice before throwing punches in the future after a minor scuffle with Jamie Soward.
Refs Watch… Jason Robinson and Tony De Las Heras certainly weren’t the most discussed referees of the weekend, considering there are no headlines surrounding them like some of their colleagues. But they did have some tense moments.
Hornby’s first try had a suspect last pass from Soward although there would be legitimate arguments either way. They also took what seemed like 10 years deliberating on the Jamie Soward, Reece Williams scuffle. But all in all the pair performed admirably.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Jamie Soward (Dragons): Provided the clutch plays to set up points in the second half and ensure the Dragons would make it two from two in local derbies this season; 2 points – Dean Young (Dragons): Was sound defensively and switched seamlessly between hooker and second row to allow the Dragons’ attacking machine to go to work; 1 point – Justin Poore (Dragons): Put his hand up very high for Origin inclusion with another solid prop forward’s game. Took the hard yards and tackled his heart out.
Dragons 26 (B Morris 3, B Hornby 2 tries; J Soward 3 goals) def Sharks 4 (B Ferguson try) at Toyota Stadium. Crowd: 15,201.