In a game which proved frustrating viewing for the 13,517 fans at Shark Park, the Dragons have held on for an unconvincing 20-16 win over the Sharks to claim back-to-back victories in 2018.
The Sharks were first to strike on Thursday night after an interference in the play-the-ball from Dragons defenders allowed Chad Townsend to boot the home side to an early 2-0 advantage. Only three minutes later Cronulla had extended their lead, this time Townsend demonstrated silky skills to put Jason Bukuya through a hole to stroll over next to the posts. New recruit Matt Moylan justified the hype surrounding his arrival at The Shire when a magical long ball from the former Panther saw Sosaia Feki slide over out wide in the 26th minute.
Cronulla had dominated every aspect of the opening half an hour, only to have their lead reduced to just ten points after a flying Nene Macdonald mirrored the acrobatics of former Dragon Brett Morris to plant the ball in the corner after a deft chip by Gareth Widdop. As a result, the Sharks headed into the sheds with a 14-4 lead.
The Dragons opened the second forty with luck on their side after a shocking miskick by Ben Hunt was scooped up and grounded by Tyson Frizell in the 45th minute. Both sides were guilty of poor handling in the opening stages of the second half and this trend continued to haunt both stages until the final siren was blown.
It was a Cronulla mistake courtesy of former Dragon Josh Dugan that allowed the Red V to take the lead for the first time in the game in the 57th minute. Ben Hunt went long to Gareth Widdop who sent it immediately to Euan Aitken and the young centre displayed enormous strength to power through the attempted tackle of Ricky Leutele to cross out wide.
Momentum swung in Cronulla's favour in the 62nd minute after Jason Nightingale was sin-binned for a professional foul on Josh Dugan. As a result, Townsend locked things up courtesy of a penalty goal. However, the Sharks failed to capitalise on their one-man overlap and instead found themselves down by four points when the Dragons winger returned after conceding two penalty goals.
In the end, the Dragons stumbled to a relieving 20-16 win with both sides leaving Shark Park with plenty of room for improvement.
Next week the Sharks search for their first win of the year against Parramatta at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Dragons head to Toowoomba to take on the Titans on Sunday afternoon.