Sharks sneak home in derby thriller

A late Bronson Xerri try, and a controversial one at that, has seen the Sharks escape with a nail-biting 18-12 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons in the local derby clash at PointsBet Stadium. 

The try was scored with just three minutes left in the game and it came when a towering Shaun Johnson bomb bounced, in a direction in favour of the Sharks, Xerri grabbing the loose ball and dashing the final 30-metres to score. 

The controversy in the try centred around whether or not Wade Graham had got a touch in the lead up, but the video referee ruled otherwise and in favour of the on field officials in awarding the four-pointer. 

In a game littered with more than 30 errors in total, the Sharks were excited about claiming the all important two points but disappointed in their overall performance on the day. 

The match began with the Sharks missing a golden opportunity to open the scoring just four minutes in when the last pass went astray and similarly at the other end the Dragons would squander two potential chances soon after.

The next period of the game saw the Sharks camp in opposition territory however the Dragons defended grimly and looked like hanging on, that was until a well weighted Jayden Brailey kick was claimed by an unlikely chaser, with Aaron Woods touching down for the try. 

It was Woods first try of the 2019 season and with the Johnson conversion the Sharks were up 6-0 some 18 minutes into the contest. 

A Graham line break soon after would put the Cronulla side on the attack and with the Dragons on the back foot a quick shift caught them short on their defensive left, Matt Moylan throwing the last pass for Sosaia Feki to touch down. 

Johnson would slot the conversion from the western sideline and the Sharks were up 12-0 midway through the first period. 

In what was an error-riddled first half from both teams, Josh Dugan would make a long run down the touchline which would amount to nothing, before Bronson Xerri scampered through the middle of the ruck in a 60-metre run, only for the last pass to go down with the try line wide open. 

Despite dominating much of the first half it would be the Dragons to strike back, a fortuitous bounce on a Ben Hunt kick wrong-footing Matt Moylan, resulting in rookie Jackson Ford scoring his first NRL try in just his second game in the top grade. 

Gareth Widdop converted from a wide angle and the Sharks would go to the break ahead by 12-6, only the fifth time all season they had taken a lead to half time. 

Errors had punctuated the first half and the second wasn't much better, with mistakes coming out of their own end seeing the Dragons pressure the Sharks line with four repeat sets of six. 

Showing good resolve in defence the Sharks held firm and after a couple of penalties saw them go on the attack, another try would go begging, Josh Morris winning the race to a Johnson kick but unable to ground it in the in goal. 

Another handling mistake, the Sharks 13th of what would eventually be a total of 16 on the afternoon, again saw them forced to defend their try line and when a St George pass hit the ground, Luciano Leila was on the spot to pick it up, crash through a couple of defenders and force the ball down for his team’s second try of the afternoon. 

Widdop kicked the simple conversion and the scores were level at 12-all with 14 minutes of the match remaining. 

The Sharks marched down the field courtesy of a penalty awarded against James Graham and they looked likely to go in front but it was a miraculous tackle from hooker Cameron McInnes, holding Xerri up in the in goal to deny the Cronulla side was more. 

A field goal attempt with nine left on the clock from Chad Townsend drifted wide, then further dropped balls, first from the Dragons, then the Sharks, gave the visitors the football with six minutes left. 

Luckily on this occasion they weren't made to pay, the Xerri try sealing a crucial win and pushing the Sharks back into the top eight with three rounds of the season to be played. 

Presented the Monty Porter Medal by Michael Porter, son of the late Monty Porter and a former standout Shark himself, Xerri was a worthy winner as player of the match in another outstanding performance from the 18-year-old young gun.

The Sharks now have six days to prepare for the Warriors in a game to be played at PointsBet Stadium next Saturday. 

 

SHARKS 18
Aaron Woods, Sosaia Feki, Bronson Xerri tries, Shaun Johnson 3 goals
beat
DRAGONS 12
Jackson Ford, Luciano Leilua tries, Gareth Widdop 2 goals