Sharks errors prove their undoing
St George Illawarra have produced an impressive comeback from 14-0 down against a Cronulla side that went from perfect in the first half to amateurish in the second to finish 20-16 winners at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks made just a single error in the opening 40, with a powerful wind at their back but disintegrated in the second as the Red V came storming home.
The Sharks' one error of the first half – an intercept pass from Valentine Holmes, doing his chances of a recall to fullback few favours – came in the 38th minute as they finished with 20 of 21 completions in the first 40 minutes.
Some skyscraping bombs from Matt Moylan, in particular, gave Dragons fullback Matt Dufty a torrid time, though he did admirably in most cases.
Match: Sharks vs Dragons
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
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After opening the scoring via a penalty goal, the Sharks stretched their lead when Jason Bukuya cut through some worrying defence on Widdop and Tariq Sims' left edge in the 14th minute.
A mountain of attacking ball seemed destined to lead to further points and it came to pass in the 27th minute when Moylan fired a sharp cut-out ball to an unmarked Sosaia Feki.
Despite having to nearly double their opponents' tackle count, the Dragons maintained their aggression knowing the breeze would favour them in the second half.
Still, they needed something special and it came in the form of a memorable grounding from winger Nene Macdonald that is sure to feature heavily in try-of-the-year conversations in seven months' time.
Running into the wind in the second half, the Sharks looked a shadow of their former clinical selves as they offered their opponents a huge helping hand with 40 minutes of errors and penalties.
A curious attacking grubber from Ben Hunt – that barely shaved his boot and went nowhere – was scooped up by Tyson Frizell for a 46th-minute try that brought it back to 14-12.
Dragons centre Euan Aitken – close to the best player on the field – produced a brilliant try saver on Josh Dugan which he followed up shortly after with a powerful charge for a try of his own to claim the lead for the Red V heading into the final quarter.
With Cronulla looking shot to bits, Sosaia Feki made a long-range break after intercepting a Dufty pass that culminated in Nightingale being penalised for a professional foul.
The Sharks made the curious decision to waste two minutes of the sin bin period taking the level-up penalty goal then made a huge hash of the rest of the stanza, barely completing a set and giving up plenty of penalties as the Dragons took two penalty goals to reclaim the lead 20-16 while down a man.
Despite a few chances in the final 10 minutes, the Sharks' discipline did not improve as the Dragons closed out an impressive 20-16 win to remain on top of the Telstra Premiership ladder.