Sharks beat Dragons in derby thriller
A freakish try to Sharks winger Sosaia Feki with eight minutes to play has helped the defending premiers earn an 18-14 comeback win over a Dragons side that battled bravely without stars Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan.
Cronulla's first win at UOW Jubilee Oval since 2007 didn't come easily with the local rivals going toe-to-toe in a match that wouldn't have looked out of place in September.
The calls for Dragons prop Paul Vaughan to play State of Origin footy in 2017 grew louder after the Country representative scored a try and set up his side's other four-pointer on a night that saw him run for 188 metres and make 26 tackles.
The opening quarter of the game was predictably played through the middle with neither side able to break the deadlock until Tim Lafai knocked over a gift two points after Matt Prior was penalised for a shoulder charge on Joel Thompson.
The Dragons' lead was short-lived as the Sharks took full advantage of a backline reshuffle caused by an injury to Euan Aitken (hamstring) with Ricky Leutele going over to claim the evening's first try.
An error by Wade Graham from the ensuing kick-off invited the Red V straight back onto the attack and they took full advantage of the opportunity to retake the lead through Origin hopeful Paul Vaughan.
The second half didn't start well for the Red V with halfback Josh McCrone conceding a flurry of seven-tackle sets before Leutele played the role of provider to set up Feki for Cronulla's second try of the night.
Momentum was suddenly with the Sharks who stormed downfield on the back of an Andrew Fifita line break and looked to have scored through Jack Bird, only for the Bunker to find a knock-on from the Brisbane-bound centre.
That near miss seemed to wake the home side from their slumber and they retook the lead when Vaughan produced a magnificent offload to front-row partner Russell Packer to send the Kiwis international over for his first try as a Dragon.
A huge break by Chad Townsend gave the Sharks a wonderful opportunity to strike back but the defending premiers were thwarted by a terrific tackle on Fifita that jolted the ball free just metres short of the line.
They wouldn't be denied from their next attacking raid when a speculative pass from Townsend, a fortuitous ricochet and a brilliant scoop pass by Bird sent Feki over for the match-winning try to send the Sharks into the Telstra Premiership top two.
Sharks 18 (Sosaia Feki 2, Ricky Leutele tries; James Maloney 3 goals) def. Dragons 14 (Paul Vaughan, Russell Packer tries; Tim Lafai 3 goals) at UOW Jubilee Oval. Half-time: 6-8. Crowd: 15,927