Sharks v Dragons: Five key points
The Sharks earned bragging rights over the Dragons with a comfortable 30-2 over their bitter rivals on Sunday afternoon to register their first win of the 2016 season. Here are five key points from the derby.
Sharks able to tame the Dragons
Cronulla's famed defensive pressure was on show against the Dragons, limiting their opponents to a paltry 51 per cent completion rate.
As well as his side played, Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan concedes their rivals probably didn't ask enough questions of the Cronulla line.
"I was really proud with the way they defended. They didn't throw a lot at us and they dropped a lot of ball," Flanagan said.
"But in my perspective, we can only defend what they threw at us. They didn't look like scoring a try, so I was pleased about that."
Stand-in skipper Wade Graham echoed his coach's sentiments and credited his side's hunger in defence until the final whistle.
"We came up with some really big tackles to jolt some balls loose. I was really proud of our defensive effort," the back-rower said.
"They made a lot of errors. Whenever they were trying to get a bit of rhythm, there was an error forced. It was pleasing to not get a try scored against us at home."
While the experiment to play Josh Dugan in the centres failed for the second week in a row, it's a hamstring injury to the NSW representative that is of more pressing concern.
Dugan left the field in the 52nd minute with what appeared to be a problem with his right hamstring, and was later seen with ice and strapping on his upper leg.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor is hopeful the injury isn't as bad as it looks, saying his star player could be back by Round 4.
"He's come up with a slight hamstring so we'll get him scanned in the morning and hopefully it's not too bad. We're talking grade one so he'll possibly miss one week."
Cronulla's spine still has room for growth
While he was happy to come away with the 28 point win, Flanagan believes there is still plenty of work to do to perfect his side's attack.
The Cronulla mentor singled out the efforts of former Rooster James Maloney, who he says will only get better.
"I thought James's game, to be honest, was a little off. I think he came up with a few errors with the football, dropped a couple of passes and his timing was a little bit out," the Cronulla coach said.
"That's the area we'll improve, Chad [Townsend], James, Michael Ennis and Benny Barba. That's the biggest area we've got to improve in, those four players and their combinations.
"Everyone else is pretty much on the same page at the moment, but those three – the communication – and probably the non-communication part of the game where they just understand each other is going to get better in the weeks to come."
Dragons can't continue to drop so much ball
While the scoreline suggests it was a one-sided affair, the truth is the Dragons had their chances, especially in the first-half.
However, a diabolical completion rate of just 51 per cent meant they were unable to maintain pressure on the Sharks.
McGregor admitted their inability to control the ball cost them the game, but is confident his side can rectify the situation.
"We didn't give ourselves a chance. We made 130 tackles more than them. They scored three tries off kicks. We were second best in everything which is just not good enough," he said.
"You can't be polished in attack when you don't control the footy. Turning the ball over continually, you've just got no chance. Defensively I thought we were off as well.
"Our character has been tested before and we've come through really well. We're a really resilient side and we didn't show that today."
Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop had an uncharacteristically poor game, but says the side will improve leading into the big game next Sunday against South Sydney.
"There are no excuses for today's performance. Our completion rate was terrible, and when you do that much defence, it certainly takes it out of you. That was the case today. We have to move on and get better for next week."
Flanagan bemoans missed opportunities
It's not often a coach wins a game 30-2 and criticises his side's attack. Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan was disappointed in his team's execution against a disappointing Dragons' side, saying the Sharks could have scored three or four more tries.
"We would have bombed three in the first 20 minutes through opportunities to score points," he said.
"We would have scored for sure if Sam Tagatese plays the ball. He gets pushed over and we get an error. He would have scored for sure there. They were gone.
"As I said, my 6, 7 and 9 will get better with their combinations and we'll be a better footy team."