The ladders’ bottom side, St George Illawarra Dragon looked to get their first win of the 2020 season as they took on thirteenth places Cronulla Sutherland Sharks who themselves were struggling with just one win in this year’s competition, recorded last round against the Cowboys.
The most notable change was the inclusion of Andrew Fifita in the Cronulla line-up but both sides made three squad changes and various positional switches from the sides.
It was another crucial game at the bottom of the table.
An awful defensive mistake by the Sharks gifted the Dragons another set on the twenty-metre line with four minutes on the clock. Three tackles in and the count was restarted and Matt Dufty went in but the ‘bunker’ ruled out the try for an obstruction.
Two minutes later the Sharks opened the scoring as Josh Dugan found Mawene Hiroti for the debutant to cross in the corner but Shaun Johnson pushed his kick across the front of the sticks.
The Dragons finally got their first try since the Project Apollo restart as Mikaele Ravalawa powered down the left wing to score in the corner to the delight of his team-mates. Zak Lomax added the conversion from the touchline to give the Red Vee a 6-4 lead after fifteen minutes.
On twenty the Sharks were back in the driving seat thanks to fast hands from centre field to the right wing where Sione Katoa scored a diving try with a one-handed touch down. Johnson kicked superbly with a drifting conversion for a 10-6 lead.
On twenty-nine Matt Dufty found a gap to take a Corey Norman pass and ground under the sticks. Lomax added the conversion and the lead changed hands again.
Just before the interval Ben Hunt scooted from acting half-back stretched for the line and under the pressure of three Sharks tacklers, he got the ball on the ground. Lomax scored from directly under the sticks to give the Dragons an 18-10 half time lead.
Just after the hour, the Dragons extended their lead when Ben Hunt provided Cameron McInnes with a crash ball under the sticks, the hooker reaching for the line to send his team into raptures. Lomax added the simple conversion for a 24-10 lead.
There was a small glimmer of light on seventy when Wade Graham took a Johnson pass to score from five metres for the Sharks. Johnson added the conversion for 16-24, an eight-point margin with ten on the clock.
Cronulla threw everything that they had into the closing minutes but some panic football, and a resolute defence, held them at bay. In the closing seconds Ravalawa got his second of the night off a Dufty pass to score on the right-wing overlap. Lomax added a fifth touchline conversion for a final score of 30-16.
A first win of the season for the Dragons lifts them off the bottom of the table, and level on points with the Sharks. While there was still evidence of the errors which have dogged their 2020, there was plenty here for them to build on moving forward, added to by a big dose of confidence.
St George Illawarra Dragons: Dufty (T), Pereira, Aitken, Lomax (5G), Ravalawa (2T), Norman, Clune, Kerr, McInnes (T), Vaughan, Frizell, Fimaono, Merrin. Subs: Hunt (T), Lawrie, Graham, Host.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: Kennedy, Katoa (T), Dugan, Ramien, Hiroti (T), Johnson (2G), Townsend, Fifita, Brailey, Woods, Nikora, Graham (T), Rudolf. Subs: Williams, Tracey, Hamlin-Uele, Sorensen.
Referee: Henry Perenara.
Ground: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney.