A dominant first 40 minutes was followed by a second half littered with mistakes and ill-discipline as the Sharks were beaten 20-16 by the Dragons in the local derby clash at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks raced to a 14-0 lead and the match was going according to plan, before a freakish Nene MacDonald try brought the Dragons closer, then is was errors and penalties in the second period that would ultimately prove to be the home team’s undoing.
Completing 21 of their 22 sets with the football, while conceding just four penalties in the first half, saw the Sharks well on top, however 10 mistakes with the football and eight penalties against them in the second made life too difficult as the Dragons, with the strong southerly at their backs, would come home over the top.
The loss has left the Sharks winless after the opening two rounds and desperate for a change in fortune next weekend.
After opening the scoring with a penalty goal the Sharks kicked eight points clear when Jayson Bukuya showed a good change of direction, running into a gap off a Chad Townsend pass to touch down next to the posts.
The Sharks then extended their advantage when Sosaia Feki accepted a pin-point Matt Moylan pass to score wide out and when Townsend continued his perfect record with the boot it was 14-0, until the MacDonald try in the 33rd minute sent to the teams to the break with the Cronulla side up 10.
An extremely fortunate try to Tyson Frizell off a Ben Hunt miss-kick, converted by Gareth Widdop saw the Dragons pull within four points and then it would be the visitors to take their first lead of the night when Euan Aitken crashed over in the Hogs Hill corner.
Widdop nailed the sideline conversion, giving the Dragons their first lead of the night at 16-14 in front.
The scores were then levelled up when Townsend kicked a 35-metre penalty goal for an indiscretion which saw Jason Nightingale sent to the sin bin and at 16-all, with 18 minutes of the game to go and the Dragons one man down, it was there for the Sharks to win.
Unfortunately the tide turned at the subsequent restart when the Sharks made an error from the kick off and the Dragons not only hung in a man short but with two penalty goals in that 10-minute period would take a four point lead.
The Sharks would create a couple of chances in the dying moments, Josh Dugan being denied a four-pointer by the video referee then the last pass missing the mark when Kurt Capewell outjumped the pack and looked likely to score late in the contest.
But it wasn’t to be the Sharks night, the Dragons holding on in moving to two wins from the opening two rounds while leaving the Cronulla side looking for answers ahead of their match with the Parramatta Eels next Saturday.
The Sharks had a number of outstanding performers in the first half, none better than Matt Prior and Jayson Bukuya who were winning the battle of the forwards, but the second period had few standout moments as the Dragons, mainly through the opportunities presented to them by the Sharks, would control the second 40.
The Sharks v Eels clash is the second match of a double header at ANZ Stadium next Saturday. Kick off will be at 8.00pm.
Sosaia Feki, Jayson Bukuya tries, Chad Townsend 4 goals