The Cronulla Sharks have scored an emphatic 30-points-to-2 win over local rivals, the St George Illawarra Dragons.
On an afternoon where the stands and hills at the newly-named Southern Cross Group Stadium were bursting at the seams, the home crowd was treated to a performance and a result that reflected the Sharks dominance across the 80 minutes.
In what was a first period polluted by drop ball and the sound of the referee’s whistle, it was the Sharks who looked most likely to trouble the scorers first.
Valentine Holmes’ bust early on in the match looked reminiscent of one of the many he produced in 2015, but unable to capitalise on the break, the scores would remain locked at nil inside the first ten minutes.
Soon after, fullback Ben Barba went close to a one-on-one showdown with his opposite number Kurt Mann. Barba, in half a gap, couldn’t collect a Mick Ennis short ball, with only Mann standing in his way of the opening four points.
Having turned the Sharks away through their stout defence, the Dragons would go on to break the Cronulla line.
Benji Marshall’s footwork paved the way for Jason Nightingale to eat up the better part of 60 metres –only to be brought down by a last-ditch Sosaia Feki tackle, that saw the winger sent to the Sin Bin for holding down.
The Dragons opened the scoring from a consequential penalty, with Gareth Widdop seeing his side to a 2-nil front after 22 minutes of play.
Five-eighth James Maloney levelled the scores from the tee in the 29th minute, before Barba was rewarded for his earlier efforts, his slicing run capped with four points.
With the Sharks not to be troubled in Feki’s absence, the winger returned to the field and the side lifted on the back there of.
Returning half Chad Townsend – playing in his first home match versus the Dragons – was the man to take the game by the scruff of the neck leading into the break, in guiding the side to an 18-points-to-2 lead at the junction of play.
Townsend’s bust and kick for Holmes’ try in the 36th minute, before kicking and regathering for himself on the brink of half-time, saw the Sharks shoot to a 16-point lead at the change of ends.
After the break, James Maloney would add another two to the scores from a penalty goal.
The Sharks continued to assert their dominance on the clash, and as time wore on the Dragons fell away from the contest.
Jayson Bukuya – wearing the number 13 in place of injured skipper Paul Gallen – would be rewarded for his perseverance with a try in the 67th minute, before centre Ricky Leutele rounded out the scoring in the 71st.
Full time at the Southern Cross Group Stadium, where the Sharks proved far too good for local rivals the Dragons – running out 28-point victors and retaining the Monty Porter Memorial Cup.
Watch highlights of the action HERE