Sharks hold out Dragons fightback to enter finals contention

The St George Illawarra Dragons faced the Cronulla Sharks at the Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in a derby that would have different final implications depending on the result.

In the fifth minute, the Dragons seemed to take an early lead as Euan Aitken tried to crash over.

However, the Sharks stripped the ball to deny Aitken, but they couldn’t stop Tyrell Fuimaono to pounce on the loose ball to score.

The Sharks hit straight back though as Chad Townsends kick bounced awkwardly off the leg of Black Lawrie caused Matt Dufty to slip and miss the ball.

This allowed Jack Williams to beat the full-back to the ball and ground the ball, despite Dufty seemingly grounding the ball just in time after a second viewing.

The pattern of a try every five minutes continued, as Jesse Ramien picked up an inside ball from Townsend, beat three tackles and dotted down under the posts.

However, due to Blayke Brailey standing in the defensive line and constructed a Dragons defender the try was disallowed.

Brailey was then penalised for being offside 30-metres out from his own line and Zac Lomax converted to make it a two-point lead for the Dragons.

After taking a slender lead, Matt Dufty made a break down the middle of the park to the half-way line, played the ball quickly, and Clune kicked across the field to Lomax, who then dropped the ball onto his own foot, chased ahead and grounded the ball.

The Sharks once again cut the deficit moments later.

After a res restart, Townsend and Shaun Johnson combined to push the ball to William Kennedy who’s quick catch and pass released Soine Katoa to slide over in the corner for his 11th try of the year.

With the half-hour mark approaching, Shaun Johnson took control of the game, picking the ball up at first receiver and stepping off his left foot, beating the tackle of Cameron McInnes and stretch over for the lead.

Cronulla were in the mood for scoring tries as in the very next attacking set, Johnson kicked across the floor for Kennedy to chase and the full-back got to the ball before any of player and all of a sudden the Sharks led by eight.

HALF-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 22-14 St George Illawarra Dragons

With both Trent Merrin and Adam Clune ruled out for the Dragons during the half-time break, they knew the rest of the game would be tough.

On a fifth tackle play, Aaron Woods was the first receiver and spun out the tackle to score his first of the afternoon.

The Dragons slowly worked themselves back into the game, and just after the 50 minutes mark, Matt Dufty skipped to the outside of Wade Graham and Townsend and flicked a pass out the back to Lomax who slid over to score.

The Dragons picked up a second in as many minutes after Dufty’s grubber kick down the touchline was grabbed by Lomax, and flicked back inside.

It bounced off Ronaldo Mulitalo and into the hands of Mikaele Ravalawa who powered through Townsend to score.

With the Saints now only down by four, the game was there’s to win, and the Sharks to lose.

With five minutes to go, the game was hanging in the balance with both sides looking to score to secure the two points.

With three minutes on the clock, Corey Norman kicked ahead behind the Sharks line, and Dufty chased ahead and looked to ground the ball before the dead-ball line.

Unfortunately, the full-back bounced the ball and the try was disallowed.

The Dragons would have the final attacking play of the game as Norman kicked across to the left edge was chased by Jason Saab, but unfortunately, the young winger couldn’t quite ground the ball inside the in-goal area.

FULL-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 28-24 St George Illawarra Dragons


Cronulla Sharks

Kennedy, Katoa, Ramien, Goodwin, Mulitalo, Johnson, Townsend, Hamlin-Uele, Brailey, Woods, Talakai, Graham, Williams

Interchanges: Rudolf, Tracey. Wilton, Hunt

Tries: Williams, Katoa, Johnson, Kennedy, Woods

Goals: Johnson (4/5)

St George Illawarra Dragons

Dufty, Saab, Aitken, Lomax, Ravalawa, Norman, Clune, Lawrie, Hunt, Vaughan, Frizell, Fuimaono, McInnes

Interchanges: Merrin, Kerr, Host, Ford

Tries: Fuimaono, Lomax (2), Ravalawa

Goals: Lomax (4/5)

Referee: G. Atkins

Touch Judges: T. Roby, L. Kennedy

Video Referee: B. Galea

Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)

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