St George Illawarra held off a strong second-half comeback by Cronulla on Sunday night to secure a 10-16 victory in the local derby at Southern Cross Stadium.
The Dragons remain one of the NRL frontrunners, with two wins in their opening three games, although with a healthy 14-nil lead at half-time they looked likely to have things easier than they eventually turned out.
In the second half they had to knuckle down defensively as the Sharks came back into the game to ensure that the final result still hung in the balance as the minutes ticked down in the local derby.
The Dragons’ first-half display at Cronulla had a distinct British look about it. Two tries to Scotland Four Nations centre Euan Aitken and three goals to England stand-off Gareth Widdop secured all their first-half points.
The Sharks rallied, however, and last year’s Clive Churchill Medal winner Luke Lewis scored, despite a gallant tackle from Widdop, before recruit from Canberra Edrick Lee added his try for the Sharks to trail by only four points.
The hot-headed Andrew Fifita lashed out at Dragons half Josh McClone while the Cronulla international was in possession. It cost the Sharks two more points and sealed the St George Illawarra victory.
Sharks: 1 Jack Bird; 19 Valentine Holmes, 3 Kurt Capewell, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee; 6 James Maloney, 7 Chad Townsend; 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen (c). Subs: 14 Jayson Bukuya, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jeremy Latimore, 17 Joseph Paulo.
Dragons: 1 Josh Dugan; 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale; 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Josh McCrone; 8 Russell Packer, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Joel Thompson, 13 Jack de Belin. Subs: 14 Tariq Sims, 15 Leeson Ah Mau, 16 Jacob Host, 17 Kurt Mann.