Dragons thrash Sharks in local derby
The St George Illawarra Dragons have once again proved they are the real deal after dismantling the Sharks 42-6 in a one-sided local derby.
In a game where ill-discipline and costly errors reigned supreme for the Sharks, the Dragons put forward one of their finest attacking displays of the season with halfback Benji Marshall in fine touch as the Red V scored 40 points for only the third time since Round 18, 2009.
The Dragons almost opened the scoring when Eto Nabuli looked to have scored, however the winger failed to get a proper handle on the ball after a Gareth Widdop grubber, with the home team having to make do with their earlier 2-0 advantage.
Sharks winger Valentine Holmes scored a controversial first try in the ninth minute thanks to a sensational chip from five-eighth Jack Bird – the Sharks only try of the match.
Referee Adam Devcich awarded the try without going to the video referee which proved costly with replays showing that Holmes clearly failed to get the ball down cleanly.
Some classic Benji Marshall magic – where the halfback stepped past four defenders before passing it on for his teammate to get cleaned up by inside pressure – helped scatter the Sharks defence in the 18th minute, as Josh Dugan pushed his way past would-be tacklers to score the Dragons' first try of the afternoon on the very next tackle.
A damaging run from dummy-half by Mitch Rein paid dividends as the hooker's third try of the season helped extend his team's lead to eight with six minutes remaining in the first half.
The Dragons continued where they left off at half-time when Will Matthews stormed on to a Widdop short ball in the 45th minute to crash over the try-line and extend the Red V's lead to 14.
A botched goal-line dropout from Sharks hooker Michael Ennis, where the kick was lucky to travel three metres downfield, enabled Widdop to kick another penalty goal in the 52nd minute to make it a 22-6 ball game.
Marshall was at it again in the 60th minute when he stepped two and put in a grubber for Jack de Belin who did enough to get a finger on the ball to score.
For the second time in the game Holmes kicked the ball out on the full from the kick-off which put the Dragons in good territory to score again three minutes later through Pete Peter Mata'utia found a way to the try-line despite the heavy presence of Sharks defenders to push ahead with a 28 point lead.
Winger Etu Nabuli sealed the Dragons' eighth win in nine games in the 74th minute when he crossed out wide to make up for his earlier bundled effort, while Widdop's penalty goal after the siren was a cherry on top.
"I thought our second half was good," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
"I thought we weren't doing enough with what we practiced. We were high in completions and we were getting through our sets okay but I don't think we had the intensity that we needed. Half-time allowed us to step up another gear and we came away with a real convincing win."
St George Illawarra Dragons 42 (Josh Dugan, Mitch Rein, Will Matthews, Jack de Belin, Peter Mata'utia, Eto Nabuli Tries; Gareth Widdop 9 Goals) defeated Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 6 (Valentine Holmes Try; Michael Gordon Goal) at Jubilee Oval. Crowd: 18,011. Halftime: Dragons 14-6.