Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
St George Illawarra have claimed an upset win in tonight's local derby with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, triumphing 16-10 over their arch-rivals in front of 14,000 at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
On a night where the weather couldn't decide whether it was here or there, the Dragons produced a workman-like first half to take a 14-0 lead to halftime before holding out a comeback from the reigning premiers in the second half.
The scoreboard operator wasn't troubled until near the quarter-mark of the match, when Gareth Widdop took a two-pointer off a penalty to start the visitors' tally. They added to that just a couple of minutes later in an attacking raid where McInnes put a cheeky grubber through and Euan Aitken managed to duck through defenders to claim the try.
Inside the final ten of the first half the Red V extended their lead through another Widdop penalty goal before Aitken doubled his try tally just short of the break after they forced an error from the Sharks on halfway. A short Bunker review saw the green button pressed and together with Widdop's conversion, St George Illawarra sat in the box seat with a 14-0 lead at the change of ends.
An enterprising start to the second half had many thinking the Dragons would go on with it, but the introduction of some rain around the 50 minute mark saw the complexion of the contest change and the Sharks started grinding back into the contest. Luke Lewis took advantage of a Widdop error off a kick on the goalline to plant the ball and by the 58th minute the hosts had another with Edrick Lee strolling in off a lazy overlap.
Their lead reduced to just four, the Dragons defence dug in with their forward pack doing plenty of tackling and forcing several errors. A third penalty goal to Widdop after 63 minutes was the last scoring play of the contest, despite continued pressure from the premiers. Their last foray into the Dragons' den was marred by a Jayden Brailey error.
Cronulla's handling and discipline will be a concern ahead of their trip to ANZ Stadium next Saturday where they'll face the Eels, while St George Illawarra are back home at UOW Jubilee Oval where they host the Warriors in the same timeslot next Sunday night.