Dragons edge Sharks in derby
St George Illawarra have survived a stirring second-half comeback to defeat the Sharks 16-10 at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday night.
Resembling the side that strangled the Panthers out of the contest in Round 1, the Dragons produced some inspired defence to hold out the Sharks who scored twice in the space of seven minutes to get within four points in the second half.
The Dragons should have opened the scoring in the 7th minute when a Jack de Belin short ball put Paul Vaughan into a yawning gap, but instead of passing to an unmarked Tyson Frizell on the inside, the Italian prop dummied and took the tackle.
Ricky Leutele then went close to pulling off a miracle try but the Sharks centre couldn't force James Maloney's grubber despite winning the race to the loose ball.
Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a penalty goal from in front of the posts, with injury added to insult for the home side with Wade Graham forced off for a concussion test.
Things went from bad to worse for the Sharks when Chad Townsend's kick went out on the full, and from the next set Euan Aitken raced through to ground a Cameron McInnes grubber to make it 6-0.
Cronulla had their chances to get back into the contest but couldn't land the knockout blow, and their inability to convert those opportunities was punished when Widdop knocked over another two points to push the lead beyond a converted try.
The Sharks looked set to narrow the margin when Leutele got into the clear, but an errant offload was gleefully scooped up by Aitken who raced 60 metres to give his side a 14-point half-time lead, although it would have been eight had Edrick Lee's final pass to Townsend not been called forward as the siren sounded.
The defending premiers desperately needed to open the second-half scoring but were denied when Leutele lost the ball agonisingly short of the line.
Cronulla finally got on the board half-an-hour from the end when Luke Lewis capitalised on a Widdop error to ground a loose ball to get his side back in the contest.
The Sharks then lost Wade Graham with the back-rower forced off for the second time for an HIA test, but the hosts didn't let the injury rattle them with Lee collecting a deflected pass to score his first try in the black, white and blue.
A terrific try-saving tackle by Joel Thompson denied Kurt Capewell a match-levelling four-pointer and it would prove a turning point as the Dragons marched downfield and added another goal after Andrew Fifita was penalised for an indiscretion while in possession in what proved to be the last scoring play of the night.
Dragons 16 (Euan Aitken 2 tries; Gareth Widdop 4 goals) def. Sharks 10 (Luke Lewis, Edrick Lee tries; James Maloney goal) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Half-time: 14-0. Crowd: 14,247.