A late try to Sosaia Feki has seen the Cronulla Sharks claim a rare 18-14 win at UOW Jubilee Oval to help the defending premiers leapfrog the St George Illawarra Dragons into second spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
Scrappy Sharks must fix error count
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan conceded his side must address their ball handling if they want to be a serious threat come the business end of the season.
The defending premiers completed just 69 per cent of their sets on the back of 14 errors but still managed to overcome a Dragons side that got through 92 per cent of their sets.
"Our execution wasn't great but they just kept turning up for each other and competing," Flanagan said.
"I think we're brave and competing really hard for each other, but we're not playing that well at the moment."
Dragons hurt by poor execution
It's not often a side has a better completion rate, makes more metres, produces more offloads, concedes fewer penalties and makes fewer tackles and loses a game, but that's exactly what happened to the Dragons on Friday night.
Missing stars Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop, the Dragons held their own against the defending premiers and looked on track for an improbable win until Sosaia Feki crossed late to give the Sharks the lead.
The only area they seemed to struggle with was their last play options, with halfback Josh McCrone conceding three seven-tackle sets in the space of six minutes in the second half.
"We could've done a little bit better to start the second half. We had four low finishes on our kicks," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
It was a different story for the Sharks who kicked into the corners and repeatedly forced their opponents to work the ball off their own line.
"I thought our game management from the two halves was a bit of a difference," Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said.
Euan Aitken set for stint on the sidelines
The Dragons' injury woes went from bad to worse with hard-running centre Euan Aitken out indefinitely with a hamstring injury.
Aitken limped from the field after 20 minutes, with all three of Cronulla's tries coming down his edge after the Dragons were forced to reshuffle their backline.
"That was a bit disjointed and that's where the points came in that corner," McGregor said.
"He'll be out for a few weeks, definitely. When you walk off the field like that, it's a bad one."
Field puts his hand up for starting spot
The reshuffle did have one positive with excitement machine Jai Field given a prolonged run at five-eighth.
The 19-year-old made his NRL debut with 11 minutes off the bench in the Round 1 win over Penrith, and he showed on Friday that he can cut it against bigger bodies with some classy touches in a 60-minute outing.
Field burst onto the scene with some scintillating tries at the Auckland Nines and could come into reckoning for a starting spot in the halves with Widdop expected to miss another few weeks.
"He got out there and played some footy which is good," McGregor said.
"I just had a chat with him there and he's disappointed his first game was a loss, but he knows what needs to be done in the coming weeks so he'll be in the mix."
Sharks end Kogarah hoodoo
Cronulla's win was just their second victory at UOW Jubilee Oval this millennium, with their last triumph coming back in 2007.
The Sharks had been soundly beaten in their past four trips to Kogarah and were staring down the barrel of their second loss of the year against their local rivals after faltering at home in Round 3.
"I wouldn't have liked to have gone the rest of the year with all the Dragons supporters that live in the Shire talking about how they got us twice this year," Flanagan said.