25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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After tasting derby defeat early in the season, Cronulla have exacted revenge on their neighbours St George Illawarra, downing the Dragons 18-14 at Kogarah in front of a healthy 15,927 attendance.
The opening twenty minutes were a war of attrition with both sides displaying cracking defence before Tim Lafai broke the deadlock via a 21st minute penalty goal after a late hit on Joel Thompson by Sharks' premiership front rower and former Dragons Matt Prior.
Euan Aitken left the field injured shortly after and it didn't take long for the Sharks to take advantage of a reshuffled Dragons backline. Ricky Leutele got the try out wide for the visitors with James Maloney converting to put the Sharks ahead 6-2 at the 25 minute mark.
St George Illawarra wasted no time getting themselves back in front - a cheeky kickoff (not sure if it was planned) resulted in the Sharks giving the ball back to the hosts. Paul Vaughan crashed over for the first for the Red V not long after and Lafai's subsequent conversion had them leading 8-6.
Another period of sustained defence from both sides followed through to halftime and up to the 50 minute mark. Sosaia Feki got the Sharks back into the lead ten minutes after the break, getting it down in the corner despite a dubious pass in the lead-up. They almost had another just two minutes later but the Bunker ruled against the Shire boys and the lead remained at 12-8.
The hour mark saw the Dragons score their second, with Russell Packer scoring off a Paul Vaughan offload, and again Lafai's conversion put his side ahead.
The see-sawing match swung again back to Cronulla with eight minutes remaining, with Feki bagging his second out wide after good set-up play from Jack Bird. Maloney's conversion gave them a four point buffer they were able to keep til the final siren.
Next week the Dragons are away to the Warriors in Waikato on Friday evening, while the Sharks host North Queensland on Thursday night back home at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 18
Venue: UOW Jubilee Oval
Halftime Score: St George Illawarra Dragons 8 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 6
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jack Bird
2 points - Sosaia Feki
1 points - Paul Vaughan
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (14)
Tries: Paul Vaughan, Russell Packer
Conversions: Timoteo Lafai (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Timoteo Lafai (1/1)
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (18)
Tries: Ricky Leutele, Sosaia Feki (2)
Conversions: James Maloney (3/3)