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Cronulla-Sutherland have taken bragging rights in the latest instalment of the Southern derby, downing the Dragons 28-24 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium tonight.
In a nine-try contest with multiple momentum swings, it was the Sharks who held on despite a late St George Illawarra onslaught which very nearly netted them a second consecutive final-minute victory.
The Red V were the first side to trouble the Point Family in the famous Kogarah scoreboard, with Tyrell Fuimaono crossing in an unusual manner to open the scoring. The Dragons' second rower had the ball stripped as he surged over the goalline, only to reach out and ground it (as is permitted under the rules) and secure a four-pointer.
After Zac Lomax converted, the Sharks turned the tables and by the tenth minute things were locked up at 6-all with Jack Williams awarded a controversial try after seeming to beat Dragons fullback Matt Dufty to the ball. Replays raised questions over the call, but the Bunker awarded it and the ledger was square.
Lomax put the Saints back in front soon after with a penalty goal and by the 20th minute had pushed the Saints further ahead with a try of his own, which he duly converted and the 'away team' led 14-6.
From there though, the pendulum swung dramatically in favour of the men from the Shire. Sione Katoa and Shaun Johnson both crossed within minutes of each other at the half-hour mark and put Cronulla back in the lead, then Will Kennedy's 33rd minute effort saw them surge ahead to 22-14, a lead they maintained til the halftime break.
That lead was extended just minutes after halftime when bustling prop Aaron Woods climbed over the chalk for his own four-pointer, and things looked bleak for the Saints at 28-14 down.
Before the hour mark though, the contest would become a lot closer, with Lomax bagging a second try and Ravalawa scoring in the corner. At 28-24 the Dragons seemed to have the ascendency, but unfortunately for them, they couldn't translate the possession and field position in the final quarter of the contest into any more points.
Their last valiant effort came in the final 20 seconds when Corey Norman sent a sailing kick across the field, finding a chasing Jason Saab near the dead ball line - he took it and grounded it... but not inside the line.
The win propels the Sharks up to sixth position pending other results, simultaneously jeopardising any dreams the Dragons faithful might have had at an improbable run for a finals berth. In next week's NRL Indigenous Round, the Saints host the Rabbitohs at Kogarah on Thursday while a night later Cronulla are bound for Brisbane.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 28 - St George Illawarra Dragons 24
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Halftime Score: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 22 St George Illawarra Dragons 14
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Wade Graham
2 points - Zac Lomax
1 points - Shaun Johnson
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (28)
Tries: Jack Williams, Shaun Johnson, Sione Katoa, Will Kennedy, Aaron Woods
Conversions: Shaun Johnson (4/5)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (24)
Tries: Tyrell Fuimaono, Zac Lomax (2), Mikaele Ravalawa
Conversions: Zac Lomax (3/4)
Penalty Goals: Zac Lomax (1/1)