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Sharks halfback Chad Townsend.

Cronulla coach John Morris praised his injury hit-team for hanging on to defeat St George Illawarra in Saturday night’s local derby and climb their way into the top eight.

The Sharks went into the match without representative stars Andrew Fifita, Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan and lost centre Jesse Ramien before half-time.

Halfback Chad Townsend also failed to finish the match due to a calf injury and is in doubt for Friday night’s clash with Brisbane but the Sharks managed to hold on for a controversial 28-24 win.

“I am just so proud of the boys,” Morris said. “That was a local derby like they are meant to be played.

“So much went on in the game and on the way to the game. We had no Fifita and no Moylan already but Josh Dugan, we had to pull him out yesterday in his 200th game with a hamstring.

Match Highlights: Sharks v Dragons

“We lost Jesse Ramien as well tonight with a hamstring issue so there was a bit of adversity for us.”

Boom rookie Tieg Wilton, a nephew of Morris, was thrust into action when Ramien limped from the field and he is likely to get his first NRL start against the Broncos. Halfback Connor Tracey is in line to replace Townsend.

“We are hopeful for Duges. Jesse will be in some doubt for Friday night against the Broncos and obviously Chad too,” Morris said.

“Luckily we had Connor Tracey sitting on the bench and Connor could come straight in the side if Chad is no good.

“We are not sure if it is a calf strain or a cork. It is just on the edge of his calf. 
“He just felt he couldn’t go on so we will have to get him scanned and see what it means for next week.

Duges was only a minor hamstring but there was enough there for him not to play today. We felt it was too much of a risk.“

After leading 22-14 at half-time, Woods put the Sharks further ahead when he scored in the 45th minute but the Dragons fought their way back into the match.

“After the 25-minute mark I felt like we really started to run hard and turn the ball over at their end of the field and really ramped up our defence," Morris said.

“We completed at 83 per cent and were 20 from 21 completed sets at half-time, which was really good but we played them back into and had to defend our way to victory.”

Johnson steps off the right and powers over

The win lifts Cronulla into the top eight after South Sydney and Wests Tigers both suffered losses. 

Bunker officials Steve Clark and Ben Galea were dropped after the match for an incorrect decision to award a ninth minute try to Cronulla forward Jack Williams.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley said Dragons fullback Matt Dufty had grounded the ball before Williams.

However, Morris said there had still been 71 minutes left in the game and questioned whether Dufty had fumbled the ball in the lead-up to a spectacular first-half try by Dragons centre Zac Lomax

"What goes around comes around in this game and at the end of an 80-minute game like that, I don't think the Jack Williams try, if it was proven to be no try, was such a huge play,” Morris said.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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