St George Illawarra endured a horrible trip to Shark Park on Sunday, centre Josh Dugan suffering a hamstring injury in their crushing 30-2 defeat to Cronulla.
Dugan left the field midway through the second half and spent the rest of the game on the bench as the Sharks put on an impressive attacking display.
The game was won and lost in the seven minutes before halftime as the Sharks laid on three tries after being on top for most of the first 40 minutes.
Chad Townsend, considered the less dominant of the Sharks halves behind James Maloney, orchestrated the onslaught when he set up a Valentine Holmes try before grubbering and regathering to score himself.
Holmes’ try was especially spectacular with the Sharks No.7 booting it through, only for it to rebound into his grasp off Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop. He then dabbed it through again for Holmes who scooted across the line.
In encouraging signs for the Sharks, fullback Ben Barba looked back to some of his best form when he sliced through some retreating defence for the side’s first four-pointer in the 33rd minute.
Even without inspirational skipper Paul Gallen, the Sharks looked like a polished unit with a gutsy Maloney – who came in for some heavy treatment from the Dragons defence – and crafty hooker Michael Ennis leading the way.
Tries to Jason Bukuya (67th minute) and Ricky Leutele (71st) then sealed the win in the second half.
The win will provide a confidence boost for the Sharks following their first-up loss to premiers North Queensland while the Dragons failed to fire a shot despite having ample opportunities.
When Sharks winger Sosaia Feki was sin-binned midway through the first half, the Dragons found themselves on a roll and with a one-man advantage but could not capitalise with the only points during Feki’s absence being a Widdop penalty to even up the scores.