Dragons shock local rivals Cronulla

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    A Euan Aitken double has fired St George Illawarra to a surprise 16-10 NRL win over local rivals Cronulla at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday.

    Widely tipped to be cellar dwellers this year, it was Paul McGregor’s side’s second win of the year as they held off wave after wave of Sharks attack to claim a confidence-boosting victory.

    The Sharks had 37 tackles inside the opposition 20m zone, compared with the Dragons’ 21, and enjoyed 59 per cent of possession.

    Five times they crossed the line but ultimately only had two four-pointers to show for it.

    After the Sharks lost just one match at Shark Park last year, they are now 0-2 at their home ground after three rounds.

    Aitken’s first-half double secured the Dragons’ second win of the season with Jack de Belin (186m and 31 tackles) playing one of his best games.

    The Dragons shot out to a surprise 14-0 lead by halftime however the Sharks would have considered themselves unlucky.

    Ricky Leutele should have scored but failed to cleanly ground a James Maloney grubber while Andrew Fifita was held up over the line.

    And when Leutele tried to push the pass on a break down the left edge, Aitken picked up the loose ball and ran 60 metres to get his second.

    The Sharks thought they had reduced the deficit on the stroke of halftime however Edrick Lee’s final pass to Leutele was called forward.

    The second half began in similar fashion to the first – Leutele looked certain to score but had the ball dislodged in a desperate cover tackle by Josh McCrone and Josh Dugan.

    It was a case of fifth time lucky as the Sharks finally got on the scoreboard when Luke Lewis – who was in everything all night – grounded the ball when Gareth Widdop failed to clean up a Chad Townsend grubber.

    That took the sting out of the Dragons and Shane Flanagan’s side parlayed their dominance of field position into points when a bad read by Nene MacDonald led to Lee strolling over to reduce the deficit to just four.

    The Sharks were delivered a blow when Wade Graham left the field for his second concussion test of the night.

    The Sharks were again denied when Kurt Capewell was help up before Fifita gave away a dumb penalty 20m out from his own goalline when he pushed McCrone’s face as they lay in the tackle.

    The ensuing Widdop penalty gave the Dragons a six-point break as they held on for their second win of the year.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • March 19th 2017 @ 9:37pm
      Charles NSW said | March 19th 2017 @ 9:37pm | ! Report

      Great to see the Dragons win against the Sharks!
      Although there is so much work to do if we are going to be competitive by the end of the season
      Josh Dugan has worked hard to improve his skills to stay as fullback, full credit to him
      McGregor still has work to do to finalise the team to be the best they can be
      We should seriously look at replacing the halfback McCrone to start off with

      • Roar Rookie

        March 19th 2017 @ 9:42pm
        Joe said | March 19th 2017 @ 9:42pm | ! Report

        I thought McCrone was outstanding in defense today though. Shut down a lot of the Sharks left side attack and made a lot of correct defensive decisions.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 11:42am
          KenW said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          He is great in defence, and he saved Aitken on a handful of occasions, but that’s really all he’s got. His attacking game is so-so and his kicking is atrocious. He mostly kicked straight to the opposition – on his good kicks that is, on the bad ones he kicked dead on the full from 25m out with minimal pressure on him or kicked over the sideline.

          I’ve said it on a few threads but if we’ve just got him there for defence then we might as well stick Jack De Belin in the 7. He’s got better playmaking and kicking abilities than McCrone.

          • March 20th 2017 @ 12:21pm
            Charles NSW said | March 20th 2017 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

            Nothing against McCrone but I do not believe he is a 1/2 back.
            They should consider Mann or Field and do it now while we are in the early stages of the competition.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 19th 2017 @ 9:41pm
      Joe said | March 19th 2017 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

      This was week 1 Dragons. The defense was outstanding, the attack clicked and they won the game. Very simple game plan but effective. Dragons 2 from 3 to start the season and they’ve gone up against 3 competition heavyweights. Not bad at all for a team that was touted possible wooden spooners. Surely not another Titans 2016 story for the much maligned Dragons!?

      • March 19th 2017 @ 10:28pm
        Paul said | March 19th 2017 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

        If not for Widdop and McCrone, and two NRL standard players in the halves for SGI, you are talking about possible premiership contenders. As is, making the semis is the best they can hope for.

    • Roar Guru

      March 19th 2017 @ 10:17pm
      The Barry said | March 19th 2017 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

      Dragons pack will mix it with anyone this season. Packer and Vaughan tough up front. Thompson, Frizell and JDB are playing as well as any backrow in the comp. McInnes is playing smart footy. Simple game plan but when they complete well it looks good.

      They’ll beat a few more good teams this season. They just need to minimise mistake-a-thons like last week.

      Sharks were as poorly disciplined a team as I’ve seen for a while. Way too many simple penalties. Can’t do that when everyone is trying to knock over the defending premiers. I thought the Lee pass for the Townsend try came out of the hands backwards but floated forward. I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will be quick to tell everyone that it’s because the refs don’t want the Sharks to win the comp this year.

      The NRL refs are going to be the villains in the next Bond movie.

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2017 @ 6:56am
        Renegade said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:56am | ! Report

        Agree Baz.

        That was the most lacklustre effort I’ve seen from a Sharks side in over 18 months….lacked intensity, their discipline was non-existent and handling was atrocious.

        They also need to adapt to the conditions… cronulla only lost 6 games last year and 4 were in the wet. They really struggle with wet weather footy, 1 from 5 last season and already 0 from 2 in 2017.

        Credit to the dragons though, they were the complete opposite – disciplined, great completion rate, minimal errors and plenty of effort…they produce that every week and theyll win more games than everyone thought they would.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 3:30pm
        JVGO said | March 20th 2017 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

        I don’t know how the Sharks lost that. The Dragons were pretty ordinary honestly but I guess they didn’t drop the ball. So far nothing has gone the Sharks way at home. Heavy penalty counts, soft penalties, dodgy bunker decisions, disallowed tries, tries against the run of play, poor handling.They are starting to look frustrated. I have to say a lot of very soft penalties have been given against them in their two losses at surprisingly crucial moments, not ot mention in the WCC (which was to the point of ludicrous). They are going to have to be absolutely clinical to stay onside of these refs this year.

        • Roar Guru

          March 20th 2017 @ 5:20pm
          The Barry said | March 20th 2017 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

          I know what you mean but some of the penalties were just dumb.

          McCrone made no effort to get off Fifita but Fifita whacking him in the chops twice, with the ball on an early tackle was criminal.

          Ditto Lewis on Nightingale when he tried for the 20m restart. Although that did highlight a problem with the 7 tackle rule.

          If a team gets a quick 20m restart they make it to the 30m line at least and it’s the zero tackle.

          If you interfere with the player bringing the ball back the opposition gets a penalty in the middle of the 20m line and will not often start their set much past the 30m line, zero tackle with the advantage that your defensive line is set.

          It’s worth interfering with the player returning the ball every time the oppo looks like getting a quick restart if refs aren’t going to use the sin bin.

          • March 20th 2017 @ 6:00pm
            JVGO said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

            Fifita has been spotless so far this season. I think he finally got frustrated. If it wasn’t Fifita the penalty probably goes the other way. Even Sharks fans are jumping all over the guy, a bloke who won us a premiership.

            But I’m talking more about the innocuous ruck penalties at the most inopportune moments. They went in as underdogs away last week and got an even bite of the cherry. They go in this week hot favourites at home and they end up on the wrong side of a 9-2 count. It was exactly the same story against the Broncos. Things go heavily against them in the first half then they are looking like coming back and winning and a couple of inopportune penalties stymies the comeback. I just think if Cronulla are expected to play the perfect game in order to win against a team as ordinary as the dragons then they are in a fair bit of trouble.

            Last season we were winning penalty counts regularly. This wasn’t happening. It’s hard to say objectively if we weren’t committing the fouls or the refs weren’t blowing them. To me there have been a fair few soft ones going against us in the losses this season though.

            But seriously we should have won that game. The Dragons had nothing, two nothing tries against the run of play, we get across the line five or six times and lose. Anyway this week we have a big game, will go in as underdogs and you watch how many penalties they blow. It will suddenly be even again no doubt.

    • March 19th 2017 @ 10:27pm
      Paul said | March 19th 2017 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

      Everyone is rightfully talking about how bad McCrone is but did Widdop even play? Was he hiding?

    • March 20th 2017 @ 7:31am
      Crosscoder said | March 20th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      I’ll add to the fact,the ill discipline of players such as Fifita ,carrying on like a pork chop when tackled in possession.Getting penalised,giving the Dragons a gift two points, and another 6 tackles.
      The rushed passing in attacks though they need to score on every backline move.Kicking out on the full on the 6th.

      They were tres ordinaire in attack ,due to a committed Dragon’s defence and poor decision making when attacking the Dragon’s quarter.
      Lewis,Bakuya,Brid and Holmes about the only ones who can get any satisfaction from their individual performances.Our halves combo left a lot to be desired.

      We hear about super optimistic back to back titles for the club, on that performance it’s back to slack.

      The Dragons were up to the task, they deserved the winMiserable weather and a miserable performance from a team who thought they just had to appear to win.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 9:50am
      Oingo Boingo said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      Humble pie must be In short supply in various Coles and woolies around the country after some of these results.

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