Dragons negate Sharks bite

The St. George Illawarra Dragons are off the mark in 2013, following an impressive 25-12 victory over Cronulla at Sharks Stadium tonight in front of over 20,000 fans.

A near-capacity crowd of 20,130 packed in to witness the local derby with the Dragons scoring first and never being headed all the way to the final siren.

The visitors suffered a blow in the lead-up to the match when prop Michael Weyman was ruled out with a calf strain. Early reports are that it could be a 2-4 week injury.

The Sharks started slow and the Dragons had a significant spring in their step which was in contrast to their last match against the Raiders last Sunday. It appeared as though coach Steve Price told his players to go out and have fun and the dour, unimaginative Dragons’ side which has become apparent in the first three weeks of the competition was missing. The visitors didn’t appear scared to throw the ball around and it worked wonders in the 11th minute courtesy of Trent Merrin. Halfback Nathan Fien delivered a short ball to his workhorse who stuck his nose through the Sharks defence before offloading around the corner for his halfback who scored alongside the posts.

They extended their lead to 12-0 five minutes later through five-eighth Jamie Soward. As the Sharks pressed the Dragons line on their right side attack, second-rower Luke Lewis forced the pass which was scooped up by the Dragons pivot who won a 75m dash to the line despite the best efforts of Beau Ryan and Todd Carney.

Carney was helped from the field in the 34th minute after his ankle was caught in a tackle and twisted the wrong way. Early reports were that he heard something crack. Sharks fans and Carney will have a nervous wait until scan results are known.

The Sharks, however didn’t lie down and in the shadows of halftime were back in the match courtesy of a bizarre try setup by halfback Jeff Robson. He grubbered on the last and with the ball appearing certain to go dead, centre Ben Pomeroy knocked the ball back into the field of play. Robson won the scramble for the ball just ahead of winger Beau Ryan and after Michael Gordon’s conversion the two sides went to the break with the Dragons ahead 12-6.

Dragons winger Jason Nightingale did his best Superman impersonation in the 49th minute to extend the visitors lead back out to two converted tries when he contorted his body so it was in the air above the sideline while he scored the try in the corner. Despite the best attempts of Sharks fans to put him off while throwing rubber balls, Soward added the extras from the sideline and the Dragons never looked back.
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita ensured the visitors were a little nervous when he scored a barnstorming try in the 56th minute after he charged onto a short ball from Isaac De Gois following a quick play-the-ball.

Nightingale added another try to his personal tally when he won the race to a Nathan Fien grubber kick on the last tackle. Sharks fullback Michael Gordon appeared to have the ball covered but it took a wicked bounce and Nightingale placed his hands on the ball millimetres inside the dead ball line. Again Soward added the extras from the sideline before piloting a 30-metre field goal between the posts inside the final 10 minutes to put the Dragons out by 13.

The 25-12 victory eases the pressure on coach Steve Price and could kickstart their 2013 campaign. They host the Knights at WIN Jubilee next Sunday at 3pm while the Sharks travel to Parramatta Stadium next Saturday evening at 5.30pm.

Match Details
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12 St. George Illawarra Dragons 25
Venue: Endeavour Field
Crowd: 20,130
Halftime Score: Dragons 12-6

LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jamie Soward (1 try, 4 goals, 1 field goal)
2 points - Trent Merrin
1 point - Nathan Fien (1 try)

Tries: Jeff Robson, Andrew Fifita
Field Goals:
Conversions: Michael Gordon (2/2)
Penalty Goals:

Tries: Nathan Fien, Jamie Soward, Jason Nightingale (2)
Field Goals: Jamie Soward (1/3)
Conversions: Jamie Soward (4/4)
Penalty Goals:

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary

In team news, the Dragons have been dealt a blow with prop Michael Weyman ruled out with a calf strain along with centre Daniel Vidot who is out. Jack Stockwell starts in the front row while Chase Stanley replaces Vidot. Michael Henderson comes onto the bench.
Good evening footy fans and welcome to Sharks Stadium in the Shire for tonight's Easter Saturday Round 4 encounter between the Sharks and Dragons. Good crowd building and both teams will be happy to know the weather is significantly cooler than recent weeks.
Fulltime in the Holden Cup Under 20's curtain raiser and the home side have gotten off to a successful start on Derby Day with a 36-24 victory over the Dragons.
Just the one change for the Sharks with Jayson Bukuya being replaced by Sam Tagataese on the interchange bench. Kick-off in First Grade scheduled for a little after 7.30pm.
We're underway tonight and it is the Dragons, defending the northern end of Sharks Stadium, with first use of possession.
1 min: Mistake-free opening set from the Dragons. Fien finds touch 20m from the Sharks line.
3 min: Beale defuses Carney's bomb 10m from his own line.
5 min: Good defence from Lewis and Pomeroy drives Nightingale back.
6 min: The Dragons go on the attack but Soward's bomb is taken by Ryan and the Sharks work the ball off their own line.
7 min: Rein throws a clear forward pass out of dummy half. Sharks scrum 40m from Dragons line.
8 min: Razzle dazzle from the Sharks and the loose ball is knocked on by Brett Morris. Cronulla on the attack with a 10m scrum.
10 min: Gallen knocks the ball on attempting an offload out the back. Dragons defence holds and they feed a scrum 10m from their own line.
10 min: PENALTY Dragons. Lewis ruled to have worked the tackled player on the ground, slowing the play-the-ball.
Scored by Nathan Fien. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.

Trent Merrin sets up the Dragons first try of the night. He charged onto a short Fien pass, before offloading to his halfback who dived over next to the posts. Soward converts from alongside the left upright.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 6-0
13 min: Soward kicks from just beyond the 40 and the ball just trickles dead. Sharks 20m restart.
14 min: Morris takes the bomb well and is tackled by Ryan who drives him back into the in-goal. Dragons dropout.
Scored by Jamie Soward. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.

The Dragons are in again and Soward races 75m to score after it appeared the Sharks were going to press the visitors line. Carney tried to chase in vain, but the little five-eighth had enough pace to win the sprint to the line. Soward adds the extras.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 12-0
20 min: Another error from the Sharks gives Dragons possession in their half.
21 min: Rein tries to feather a grubber into the in-goal but it rebounds off Gordon who dives on the loose ball.
22 min: Matt Cooper is held up on the last tackle attempting to dart down the blind side. Sharks 10m play-the-ball.
23 min: PENALTY Sharks. Dan Hunt ruled to have gone a bit high in the tackle.
24 min: Carney banana kicks back to the posts but the Dragons have three players back to earn a free 20m.
26 min: PENALTY Dragons. John Morris tries to slow the play-the-ball down and is ruled to have done so for too long.
27 min: Another well-placed kick from Fien bounces off the shoulder of Ryan before Lewis is tackled in the in-goal. Sharks dropout.
29 min: Nightingale goes within a whisker of extending the lead, but can't hang onto Soward's chipkick.
30 min: Soward's kick which appeared to be sailing over the deadball line is played at by Wright and the ball goes dead. Sharks dropout.
32 min: The Dragons run the ball on the last but Soward's pass is average and the ball is knocked on.
33 min: Gallen drops the ball after what appeared a forward pass out of dummy half anyway. Dragons with possession on halfway.
34 min: Todd Carney is being helped from the field in backplay with what looks like an ankle injury. Could be big news for the Sharks.
34 min: Good scrambling defence from the Sharks forces a turnover.
35 min: Robson's cross-field bomb is knocked back by Ryan before Creagh knocks on. Sharks scrum 10m from Dragons line.
37 min: VIDEO REFEREE: Possible Sharks try.
Scored by Jeff Robson. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.

The Sharks score a miracle try through Robson! He grubbered on the last and with the ball certain to go dead, Pomeroy batted it back where Robson won the scramble for the ball just in front of winger Beau Ryan. Gordon adds the extras.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 12-6
40 min: Forward pass from dummy half again and the Sharks race to pack the scrum with 28 seconds left in the half.
40 min: Gordon tries to throw a miracle pass around the corner for Wright but the ball goes free.
40 min: Halftime in the Shire and the Dragons lead 12-6 in a high quality affair.
40 min: Back underway at Sharks Stadium. The hosts with possession to get the second stanza underway.
41 min: Mistake free from the Sharks. Beale takes Robson's spiral bomb well.
43 min: Morris wins the wrestle for possession with Beau Ryan and gets in the field of play.
46 min: Good play from the Dragons sees a dropout forced.
Scored by Daniel Vidot. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.

Nightingale scores a sensational try to extend the lead for the Dragons. Frizell drifted across field before delivering the pass to Nightingale who flew like Superman to score in the corner. Soward adds the extras from the sideline.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 18-6
Scored by Andrew Fifita. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful.

Fifita gets the Sharks back in it after storming onto a short pass from De Ge Gois and scores alongside the posts. Game on at Shark Stadium after Gordon adds the extras.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 18-12
60 min: The Sharks throw the ball around and the Dragons defence on the right side just holds after Fifita can't hang onto Gallen's offload. Dragons with a 10m scrum.
62 min: Ryan claims Soward's high ball on his 20. Sharks work the ball out of trouble.
62 min: PENALTY Sharks. Play-the-ball too slow.
63 min: Graham throws the pass back to Tupou who knocks the ball on. Dragons scrum.
Scored by Daniel Vidot. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful.

Nightingale has his second after chasing a Nathan Fien grubber and forcing the ball a millimetre inside the dead ball line. Fantastic effort! Are the Dragons heading for their first victory of 2013?
St. George Illawarra Dragons 24-12
66 min: The Dragons throw another forward pass from Rein back to Beale despite replays suggesting it was a tough call.
Field goal attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful.
Soward attempts a 35-metre field goal which misses to the left.
71 min: As the Sharks try to search for points, Morris puts the ball down. Dragons scrum.
Field goal attempt by Jamie Soward successful.
Soward pots a 30-metre field goal to almost guarantee the Dragons will get off the mark in 2013.
St. George Illawarra Dragons 25-12
Field goal attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful.
Soward again tries to kick a field goal. This one drops short.
76 min: Soward's quick hands to Creagh are ruled forward. Sharks scrum.
77 min: Scrambling defence from the Dragons prevents a Sharks try after Brett Morris spills a cross-field kick.
78 min: Graham's pass to Wright is put down and the Dragons have the ball 30m from their own line.
79 min: Creagh's pass to Cooper is knocked on by the centre. The Sharks will probably have last use of the ball tonight.
80 min: PENALTY Sharks. Dragons too long in the ruck.
80 min: Fulltime at Sharks Stadium and the Sharks have been defeated 25-12 by the Dragons.