Cronulla Sharks moved up into second place on the NRL ladder with a hard fought 18-14 victory today against St George Illawarra Dragons at Kogarah.
The Dragons were unchanged from the team named last Tuesday, while the Sharks made one change, with England representative Chris Heighington replaced by Sam Tagataese on the bench.
A Tim Lafai penalty goal opened the scoring after Matt Prior was penalised for a shoulder charge on Joel Thompson.
But after the Dragons were forced into a backline reshuffle caused by a hamstring injury to Scottish international Euan Aitken the Sharks replied with Ricky Leutele going over for their first try.
When Wade Graham made an error from the kick-off, however, Paul Vaughan was able to get over the line, with Lafai’s conversion giving St George Illawarra an 8-6 half-time lead.
The Sharks took the lead again on 50 minutes, when Sosaia Feki went over in the corner, with Maloney’s goal making it 8-12.
But in a seesawing game, a Vaughan offload put Russell Packer over the line for Lafai’s goal to restore their lead.
But when Feki scored his second try on 72 minutes, with Maloney converting from the touchline, the Sharks were again four points in front, and Feki could have settled it four minutes later but dropped a Wade Graham pass that would have led to a certain try.
Dragons: 1 Jason Nightingale, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Timoteo Lafai, 5 Taane Milne, 6 Kurt Mann, 7 Josh McCrone, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell (c), 12 Joel Thompson, 13 Jack de Belin; Interchange: 14 Tariq Sims, 15 Leeson Ah Mau, 16 Hame Sele, 17 Jai Field.
Tries: Vaughan, Packer; Goals: Lafai 3
Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Jack Bird, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Gerard Beale, 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); Interchange: 14 Joseph Paulo, 16 Jeremy Latimore, 17 Kurt Capewell, 18 Sam Tagataese.
Tries: Leutele, Feki 2; Goals: Maloney 3
A full review of all the weekend’s NRL action will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express