In a game they had in their keeping, but were then forced to scramble and hang on as the Dragons mounted a spirited comeback, the Sharks have claimed a nail-biting 28-24 win in the local derby clash at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
An Aaron Woods try just after half time appeared to almost seal the result for the Sharks, however the Dragons, led by fullback Matt Dufty and centre Zac Lomax almost stole the game, two missed opportunities in the final few minutes eventually proving the difference.
Played in slippery conditions, with rain falling for most of the night, it was a high quality contest with the Sharks taking home the Monty Porter Memorial Cup and the valuable two competition points that go with it.
The first points came in controversial circumstances, the football coming loose from Dragons centre Euan Aitken, back rower Tyrell Fuimaono diving on the loose ball with the video referee going against the on-field decision to award a try.
Zac Lomax converted and just six minutes into the game the St George side were up 6-0.
If the opening score of the game was hardly a classic, the second also came about with some messy play in the in-goal, Dragons fullback Dufty failing to grasp a Chad Townsend grubber as Jack Williams pounced on the ball to score.
Shaun Johnson kicked the simple conversion and inside the first 10 minutes it was six-apiece.
Not long after after Jesse Ramien had a try disallowed for an obstruction and in the following set of six an offside penalty against the Sharks saw the Dragons push out to an 8-6 lead.
If the first two four pointers weren't much to enthuse about, the third was certainly spectacular, the ball going through numerous sets of Dragons hands before a Ben Hunt kick found Lomax in space, the young St George centre then kicking again for himself and winning the race to touch down in the north-eastern corner.
Lomax added the extras from a difficult angle and the Dragons had an eight-point advantage at 14-6.
Showing plenty of intensity in defence the Sharks earned good field position and would respond, a brilliantly worked backline movement, fullback Will Kennedy throwing the final pass, seeing Sione Katoa slide over wide out.
The try, Katoa’s 10th of the 2020 season saw him go back to the top of the NRL try scorers list.
While Johnson was unable to kick the sideline conversion the Sharks five eighth was back in the action soon after, jinking and stepping through the defence from close range to cross for his team’s third of the night.
This time his kick was on target and the Sharks had their first lead at 16-14 with nine minutes of the first half to go.
Now with the momentum well and truly in their favour and after two 'six again' calls the Sharks pressured the Dragons line once more and again they were rewarded, Kennedy showing great speed to ground a Johnson grubber for a try just inside the dead ball line.
The extra two points put the Sharks up 22-14 in capping a solid first half display.
With their tails up the Sharks began the second period the way they finished the first and after repeated sets on the Dragons line it was Woods stepping his way through and crashing over for his first try of the 2020 season and with another successful Johnson conversion the Cronulla side had a nice cushion at 28-14.
The Dragons worked their way back into the contest on the back of some brilliant lead-up work from Dufty, the fullback finding space and flicking outside for Lomax who would score his second and while the subsequent kick was wide of the mark it was certainly enough to make the Sharks nervous again at 28-18 with plenty of time left.
And their was more to come from the Dragons when it came to amazing plays, on this occasion a Dufty grubber was claimed by Lomax who threw a desperation pass inside to Mikaele Ravalawa, the big winger juggling before somehow holding onto the ball and touching down.
From almost an identical position as his previous kick Lomax slotted the conversion and with just four points between the teams at 28-24 it was certainly game on with more than 20 minutes still to be played.
The Dragons pressed, capitalising on a couple of Sharks errors coming off their line, however the Cronulla side refused to break, Dufty then winger Jason Saab squandering potential scoring chances that may have tipped the result in their favour.
Losing Josh Dugan before kick off, Jesse Ramien midway through the first half and then Townsend late in the match when the game was on the line, made life difficult but also made for a satisfying win for the Cronulla side who stay in touch with the top eight.
The Sharks had strong contributions from Johnson at five eighth, continuing his recent good form, the forward pack led by Woods, Royce Hunt, Toby Rudolf and Siosifa Talakai were again impressive with his strong charges with the ball in hand, Wade Graham was physical in delivering a captains knock while Teig Wilton more than held his hands up in his first game in the top grade.
Special mention also for Kennedy at the back, only for a late error the youngster was skilful and almost flawless in tough conditions for a fullback.
With a short turnaround until a Friday night match in Brisbane against the Broncos, the Sharks will lick their wounds, assess some of their injured players and look to record a third win on the trot.
4mins - Fuimaono try, Lomax goal - Dragons 6-0
9mins - Williams try, Johnson goal - 6-all
17 mins - Lomax goal - Dragons 8-6
19 mins - Lomax try, Lomax goal - Dragons 14-6
23 mins - Katoa try - Dragons 14-10
28 mins - Johnson try, Johnson goal - Sharks 16-14
33 mins - Kennedy try, Johnson goal - Sharks 22-14
44 mins - Woods try, Johnson goal - Sharks 28-14
53 mins - Lomax try - Sharks 28-18
58 mins - Lomax try, Lomax goal - Sharks 28-24
Will Kennedy, Sione Katoa, Shaun Johnson, Jack Williams, Aaron Woods tries, Shaun Johnson 4 goals
Zac Lomax 2, Tyrell Fuimaono, Mikaele Ravalawa tries, Zac Lomax 4 goals
Crowd - 3,179