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2017 NRL - Grant Trouville © NRL Photos

The Cronulla Sharks fell at the hands of a strong and composed Dragons outfit on Sunday night at Southern Cross Group Stadium. 

The homeside would be first to look to trouble the scorers as James Maloney attacked the line then laid on a deft chip to the left edge.

Ricky Leutele would come flying through only to knock the ball on in goal and the Dragons be awarded a 20m restart.

From the ensuing play, the Dragons would march down field and got within striking distance of the Sharks line however the Sharks would force an error and hold the away side’s attack.

The Dragons were however given a penalty in front of the uprights and Gareth Widdop opted to take the two points on offer. The Dragons would lead 2-0 after 19 minutes.

The away side would be the next to trouble the scorers as Euan Aitken crossed over on the eastern touchline.

Widdop was unable to convert the try and the Dragons lead remained 6-0 after 23 minutes.

Buoyed by a vocal home crowd, Chad Townsend went to the air in Dragons territory and the pressure payed off with Tim Lafai spilling the ball.

The Sharks were given a great opportunity to attack however were unable to come up with any points and the Dragons were back with the ball.

Following a series of attacking plays from either side, it was the Sharks who would give the opposition a chance. Jayden Brailey was penalised for using his hand in the ruck and Widdop would again point to the sticks.

The Englishman made no mistake with the kick and the Dragons would lead 8-0 after 32 minutes of play.

With no points in the first half, the Sharks looked to spread the ball wide in an attempt for a try.

Maloney floated the ball to Ricky Leutele however Leutele would try and force the pass and the loose ball was picked up by a flying Aitken who would go 60 metres to score in the corner.

The try would go to the video referee and would be awarded. Widdop’s conversion was successful and the Dragons would lead 14-0 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

With seconds remaining on the clock in the first half, the Sharks launched one final raid on the Dragons line. Leutele would break down the left edge and find an open Edrick Lee.

Lee drew in Josh Dugan at the back to find Townsend looming on the inside however the pass was said to have floated forward and the score would remain 14-0 at half time.

When the sides returned from the sheds, the Sharks were given first use of the ball and attacked the Dragons line with vigour. After being awarded a penalty close to the Dragons line, the Sharks would spread the ball only for a wayward pass to be dropped by Nene MacDonald looking for an intercept.

Back in possession, the Sharks would continue to attack the Dragons line and would earn a repeat set after a Maloney grubber was batted dead by Josh Dugan.

However, despite building pressure nicely the Sharks were unable to capitalise with Leutele again forcing the pass and the ball going into the hands of the visiting side.

It wasn’t long though before the Sharks would get on the scoreboard though as they peppered the Dragons line with the Dragons unable to ground a Sharks grubber and Luke Lewis diving on the ball for the Sharks first four pointer of the night.

Maloney would convert and the score would be 14-6 with half an hour to play.

The Sharks would proceed to launch a chaotic attack that bamboozled the Dragon’s line of defence. Bird fired a play from right to left that saw Edrick Lee scoop up a loose ball to score his first four-pointer for Cronulla.

With Maloney’s conversion waved away, the Sharks would trail 10 – 14.

With newfound momentum, the home side found themselves playing fast, consecutive sets down the middle.

In a display of utter strength, Kurt Capewell appeared to machine his over the line. The Shark would, however, be denied on this occasion, with the Bunker deeming that Capewell was held up.  

Minutes later, Fifita would be penalised for palming McCrone, and Widdop would slot a penalty goal to edge the Dragons ahead 10 – 16.

The final fifteen minutes saw play scramble from end to end, with both sides failing to turn possession into points. The Sharks trailed 10 – 16 at the conclusion of the contest.   

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour 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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