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The St George Illawarra Dragons 2003 campaign is all but over following a 25-16 defeat to Cronulla Sharks at Toyota Park tonight.
In a bruising encounter, both sides were giving little away and at half time it was just 4-all.
But the Sharks came out firing in the second half with stand-in half back Michael Sullivan scoring in the 43rd minute. Rookie winger, Ben Creagh scored for the Dragons three minutes later to again lock-up the scores at 10-all.
Not to be outdone, the Sharks then stepped up a gear running in the next two tries and with 20 minutes to go, the Sharks were in charge at 24-10.
Sullivan put his team further ahead following a field goal and with that, the Dragons' top eight hopes for 2003 were quickly evaporating.
St George half back Brett Firman showed a good turn of pace to score in the 70th minute but it was all too little too late with the Sharks running out deserving winners.
SHARKS 25 Tries: Anderson, Sullivan, P Bailey, Hilder, Kent Goals: Anderson 2/5 Field Goal: Sullivan defeated DRAGONS 16 Tries: Nero, Creagh, Firman Goals: Riddell 2/3
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - M Sullivan (Sharks) 2 - L Bailey (Dragons) 1 - D Nutley (Sharks)
Vital statistics Penalties: Sharks 9; Dragons 7 Completions: Sharks: 31/47; Dragons 26/42 Tackles: Sharks 288; Dragons 266 (L Bailey Dragons: 43) Missed Tackles: Sharks 24; Dragons 13 (C Beattie Sharks 19; L Thompson Dragons 19) Hitups: Sharks 152 ; Dragons 160 Handling Errors: Sharks 16; Dragons 19
By the clock: 0 min: Kickoff!
14 min: No score as yet. Plenty of feeling in the match with Saints getting more of the ball.
17 min: TRY - Dragons. Chris Nero scores after Nathan Blacklock grubbers into the in-goal. Conversion Mark Riddell from almost in front is unsuccessful. Dragons 4-0
33 min: TRY - Sharks. Jarrad Anderson scores out wide following a Peachey grubber. Converion Anderson unsuccessful. 4-all
HALF TIME: A hard fought and physical match. The referee's patience being tested by both sides. The match is up for grabs. 4-all
Second half underway...
43 min: TRY - Sharks. Michael Sullivan scores under the post following a controversial call which saw a Sharks players ruled not to have played at a ball that hit the deck. Peachey reagthered and flicked a beaut pass to the try scorer. Conversion Anderson. Sharks 10-4
46 min: TRY - Dragons. Ben Creagh scores his first try in the top grade following a kick into the in-goal from Ben Hornby. An excellent reply from the Dragons. Sideline conversion from Riddell is a ripper. 10-all
51 min: TRY - Sharks. Phil Bailey scores after contesting a cross-field bomb. Dragons winger Creagh injured as both players hit the ground. Wide conversion attempt from Anderson is across the face of goal. Sharks 14-10
55 min: NEWS - Nutley for the Sharks is injured and forced from the field.
57 min: TRY - Sharks. Matt Hilder scores 10m from uprights after halfback Michael Sullivan sights an opening close to the line and offloads a gem of a flick pass. Conversion Anderson unsuccessful. Sharks 18-10
59 min: TRY - Sharks. Jason Kent scores out wide following a tremendous charge up the middle from the Shark forwards. Once again, Michael Sullivan is there to take full advantage and slides through a gap to deliver another beaut pass. Conversion from Anderson is spot on and the Dragons 2003 hopes are going down the gurgler. Sharks 24-10
67 min: FIELD GOAL - Sharks. Sullivan puts the home side further ahead. Sharks 25-10
70 min: TRY - Dragons. Brett Firman scores under the posts after setting up Dean Young who made a break up the centre of the ruck from halfway. Conversion Riddell. Sharks 25-16
74 min: NO TRY - Sharks are denied following a video ref call that Anderson knocked on.
FULL TIME: A popular victory for the home side with half back Michael Sullivan being a stand out. Not far behind was forward Danny Nutley. For Saints, their season looks to have gone off the rails and are at best a mathematical chance of making the top eight. Dragons front rower Luke Bailey put in a sterling display topping the tackle count. Sharks 25-16