Battered Sharks go down to Dragons
A Sharks side that lost four players with injury throughout the course of the game have in the end proved no match for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the local derby at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
The Sharks battled bravely after losing Andrew Fifita and Paul Gallen before half time, Wade Graham shortly after, but in the final wash up finished on the end of a 40-20 defeat to the Dragons.
And it could prove to be even more costly, with Fifita and Gallen to undergo scans on knee injuries and Graham a hamstring, with the results to determine their status for the coming weeks.
A penalty two minutes into the match saw Gareth Widdop open the scoring for the Dragons with a 35-metre goal and the Sharks looked to have immediately responded when Edrick Lee dived over in the corner, only for the try to be disallowed after Andrew Fifita had lost the ball earlier in the play.
From the next set of six in what was a huge turnaround, some individual brilliance from Matt Dufty extended the home teams lead, a weaving 40 metres run leaving defenders in his wake as the Dragons fullback dived over in the north-eastern corner.
Widdop was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt but it was 6-0 Dragons 10-minutes into the match.
Playing with plenty of energy the Sharks managed to work their way down into an attacking zone and after earning a repeat set, then a penalty, the Dragons were left one man short when hooker Cameron McInnes was sent to the sin-bin for a professional foul.
With a man advantage the Sharks played through the middle, a Fifita off-load from close to the line seeing Jayden Brailey dive over.
Chad Townsend converted from in front of the posts and it was 6-all after 15 minutes.
The Dragons went two ahead courtesy of a Widdop penalty goal, then after the Sharks knocked back a kick at goal to level, some slick backline play saw Lee touch down and this time he wouldn't be denied, the video referee giving him the green light after the lanky winger planted the ball down centimetres from the eastern sideline.
Townsend was off-target with his kick and the Sharks led 10-8, however that was until yet another Widdop penalty goal again locked the scores up, this time at 10-apiece with still 12 minutes of the first period remaining.
Yet another penalty goal, the fourth to the Dragons in the opening half put them up 12-10, before a 45-metre try from St George hooker Cameron McInnes gave the home team a six point advantage heading into the break.
Just before the try was scored Fifita limped from the field and down the tunnel, after a medial ligament strain saw Gallen replaced earlier, with the Sharks down to 15 players with 45 minutes of the match still to go.
With two of their high profile forwards unable to continue, the second half was always going to be a battle and that’s the way it played out, Dufty scoring a second just four minutes in, before Paul Vaughan barged over for a soft try soon after and the Dragons were up 28-10.
A Valentine Holmes try, from a clever Josh Dugan off-load made it 28-14, then when Ricky Leutele scored running onto a well-timed Trent Hodkinson pass, the Sharks, despite the odds being stacked against them, were in touch at 28-20 down with plenty of time remaining.
However just when momentum seemed to be turning, more bad luck would befall the Sharks, Josh Dugan having a try disallowed, before this time it was Wade Graham limping off with a hamstring injury, resulting in the Cronulla side being down to 14 fit players with still 22 minutes to go.
Further Dragons tries to Jack DeBelin and Euan Aitken ballooned the score out to 40-20, with the Sharks battered bruised and going home without the Monty Porter Cup or the two competition points.
Compounding their problems the Sharks lost a limping Luke Lewis with five minutes to go, capping off a horror night in Wollongong.
The Sharks will now hope for the best when scans results on their injured brigade are revealed in the coming days, before they attempt to name a team to play the Panthers next Sunday.
Ricky Leutele, Valentine Holmes, Edrick Lee, Jayden Brailey tries, Chad Townsend 2 goals.