Sharks blitz beats Dragons
A seven minute blitz in the shadows of half-time has inspired the Cronulla Sharks to a huge 30-2 win over the Dragons in a one-sided derby at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The loss could be further soured after superstar centre Josh Dugan was forced from the field midway through the second-half with a suspected hamstring injury.
The Dragons were their own worst enemies, conceding seven penalties and completing a miserable 51 per cent of their sets in glorious conditions.
The game started well enough for the visitors with a Gareth Widdop bomb forcing Ben Barba in goal for a line dropout, before both sides opted against taking early shots at goal.
There were shades of 2005 with Benji Marshall bamboozling the Cronulla defence with some nifty footwork, only for Jason Nightingale to drop the ball cold out wide.
Marshall's next involvement was more telling, linking up with Nightingale again to put the Red V deep in attack. Sosaia Feki did amazingly well to chase down the New Zealand winger, but his over-exuberance in the tackle saw him sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
Widdop knocked over the gift two points to make it 2-0 after 22 minutes, but that would be the last time they troubled the scorers.
The Dragons couldn't take advantage of the numerical advantage, instead allowing the Sharks to level the scores via a James Maloney penalty goal after Widdop had earlier kicked out on the full.
A second penalty against Widdop for a flop, followed by a Michael Ennis line dropout proved too much for the visitors' defence, with incumbent fullback Ben Barba crossing for his first try of the season.
The 2012 Dally M Medallist had too much speed for Tim Lafai, before stepping inside Kurt Mann to cross for the game's first four-pointer.
The fullback's try was the spark the game needed, with the Sharks piling on two more just before half-time.
The first came after a kick from Chad Townsend ricocheted off Widdop, with the Cronulla halfback regathering the Steeden in one hand, before calmly putting it on the toe again for a flying Valentine Holmes to reel it in and touch down next to the posts.
Playing in his first game at home as a Shark since leaving the club in 2013, Townsend then added his name to the scoresheet, grubbering for himself and diving past Widdop to score just before the break.
Michael Ennis 'awarded' the try on-field, and importantly for his side, so did the men in the Bunker to make it 18-2 at the interval.
Despite dominating field position early in the second stanza, the Dragons simply couldn't breach the Cronulla defensive wall.
To make matters worse, they lost NSW fullback Josh Dugan to a right hamstring injury in the 52nd minute, before a penalty goal to Maloney pushed the lead out to three converted tries with 24 minutes to play.
The game was put to bed thanks to some crafty work from Ennis out of dummy-half, who produced a perfectly weighted angled grubber for Jayson Bukuya to seal Cronulla's first win of the season.
Marshmallow defence allowed Ricky Leutele to carry three defenders over the line from close range to end the horror afternoon for the Dragons who must now regroup ahead of their showdown with the unbeaten Bunnies at the SCG next Sunday.
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)