St George Illawarra Dragons made it six wins from six with a 40-20 victory over local rivals Cronulla Sharks.
When James Graham was taken high by Andrew Fifita, Gareth Widdop kicked the Dragons into a 2-0 lead early on.
Cronulla thought they had scored through Edrick Lee moments later. But a knock on by Fifita was spotted in the build-up. They were made to pay when Matt Dufty broke through the line after he slid straight across Cronulla’s defence and got on the outside of Trent Hodkinson.
For the second time on Friday night, the referees sin-binned a player for a professional foul after a quick tap. This time, it was Cameron McInnes that walked for the Dragons. Straight after, Jayden Brailey and Fifita combined to send the former in under the posts to level the scores.
Widdop added a further two points while St George were still down to twelve men. But Fifita expertly took the short kick off to set up Lee for a try in the left corner. Chad Townsend’s conversion missed giving the Sharks a two-point lead which was converted into a two-point lead for the Dragons with two Widdop penalties.
After McInnes returned to the field, he stepped expertly past Wade Graham to score in the right corner and extend the Dragons’ lead to 16-10 at half-time.
After Townsend dropped the ball during Cronulla’s first set of the second half, Dufty again set the stadium alight with a mazy run on his way to his second try. Paul Vaughan then got himself a try for the Dragons, set up by a great run by Leeson Ah Mau and dummy half work by McInnes.
Injuries were taking their toll for the Sharks with Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Fifita all leaving the field with injuries but that didn’t stop the Sharks from making a game of it.
Josh Dugan offloaded to Valentine Holmes before Trent Hodkinson found Ricky Leutele with a great face-ball to reduce the arrears to eight but Jack de Belin snuck over for the Dragons to halt the Sharks’ comeback.
Ben Hunt then found Euan Aitken with a great short ball to seal St George’s sixth win of the season.
Dragons: Dufty, MacDonald, Aitken, Lafai, Nightingale, Widdop, Hunt, Graham, McInnes, Vaughan, Frizell, Sims, de Belin; Interchanges: Latimore, Mann, Ah Mau, Sele
Tries: Dufty 2, McInnes, Vaughan, de Belin, Aitken; Goals: Widdop 8
Sin-bin: McInnes – professional foul
Sharks: Moyland, Lee, Dugan, Leutele, Holmes, Hodkinson, Townsend, Fifita, Brailey, Prior, Lewis, Graham, Gallen; Interchanges: Capewell, Dillon, Seumanufagai, Paulo
Tries: Brailey, Lee, Holmes, Leutele; Goals: Townsend 2
Full match reports of all this weekend’s NRL games will feature in Monday’s League Express.