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NRLW: Sharks grab first derby win - and stick finals knife into Dragons in the process

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8th September, 2023
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Cronulla have won their first NRLW derby clash against St George Illawarra, pinching a low-scoring encounter 16-8 at PointsBet Stadium.

A 58th-minute Tiana Penitani try put the Sharks in front, before a gorgeous pass from five-eighth Emma Tonegato found winger Cassie Staples in the corner to seal the deal on Thursday night.

It leaves both teams at severe risk of missing the finals, each to be officially ruled out of top-four contention should Brisbane (fourth) or Canberra (fifth) win either of their last two games.

Cronulla again teased their enormous potential, star players Tonegato (120m, six tackles busts, two line breaks) and Penitani (153m) adding the finishing touches after their middles outworked their Dragons’ rivals.

Sharks coach Tony Herman heaped praise on the star duo.

“As the season has gone on, (Tonegato) is getting more and more used to it, she’s playing great footy,” he said.

“She’s understanding her role better, so we’re really happy to have her at No.6.

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“(Penitani) is an incredible player … we could not be happier to have a captain like her in the way she just leads from the front.

“She’s a credit to herself and her family, we love having her here.”

Cronulla’s Brooke Anderson opened the scoring, pirouetting around three St George Illawarra defenders and crossing on 20 minutes, but the Dragons pinched one back shortly before the half when Tyla Nathan-Wong pounced on a fumble in the opposition’s in-goal.

They were even in front when Cortez Te Pou was put through on 53 minutes, before Penitani and Staples wrestled the game the Sharks’ way.

A shocking first-half completion rate of 61 per cent cost Cronulla before they lifted that to 80 per cent in the second, finding the points their dominance probably warranted.

Dragons coach Jamie Soward said his side had chances to stamp their authority on the contest leading 8-6 but just hadn’t executed.

“We tried hard … it was in our hands there and we just didn’t come out with our best attack,” he said.

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“There’s a lot of excuses there but we were courageous tonight, we just didn’t have the special juice left in the tank after what’s been a rough five weeks for us.”

© AAP

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