The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 30-2 by the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Shark Park, Cronulla on Sunday.
The Red-and-Whites were held scoreless in the local derby with co-captain Gareth Widdop’s penalty goal the only points of the game.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made several changes to the line-up announced in midweek as a result of second-rower Joel Thompson overcoming his corked gluteus injury.
The NSW Origin representative started in the back-row alongside Tyson Frizell which meant Will Matthews reverted to the interchange bench alongside co-captain Ben Creagh, Jack de Belin and Siliva Havili.
Furthermore, utility Peter Mata’utia was preferred on the wing in lieu of Euan Aitken who was omitted.
The Dragons had entered the encounter on the backend of a narrow 18-16 loss to the Melbourne Storm in the opening round but unfortunately found themselves trailing once again at the break.
The visitors had claimed an early two-point lead midway through the stanza after Sharks winger Sosaia Feki was penalised and sinbinned for not releasing counterpart Jason Nightingale from a tackle.
Dragons co-captain Gareth Widdop made no mistake from the tee for the pin-point goal.
But the Red-and-Whites had been unable to make the most of their man-advantage over their local rivals and were punished with 18 unanswered points as a consequence.
Sharks five-eighth James Maloney had made no mistake with his opportunity at goal after his side had been awarded a penalty near the half-hour mark.
His teammates followed this up with tries to fullback Ben Barba, winger Valentine Holmes and halfback Chad Townsend shortly thereafter with each taking full advantage of some poor defensive decisions by the visitors.
Maloney notched two of his three attempts at the tee to make it 18-2.
The pivot later extended his side’s lead even further when second-half play resumed with a second penalty conversion in the 57th minute.
Sharks lock Jason Bukuya and centre Ricky Leutele both added further blows to the visitors’ hopes of a comeback when they etched their names onto the scoresheet late in the game.
Maloney converted one of his two attempts to make it 30-2.
St George Illawarra Dragons 2. Penalty Goal: Widdop (1/1).
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 30. Tries: Barba, Holmes, Townsend, Bukuya, Leutele. Goals: Maloney (3/5). Penalty Goal: Maloney (2/2).