St George Illawarra’s top eight hopes are in dire straits after barely firing a shot in their 28-8 NRL loss to Cronulla.
While the Sharks were far from impressive in front of 12,792 at Remondis Stadium, the Dragons failed to overcome a slew of key outs as they slumped to their fifth straight loss.
With Trent Merrin suspended, Benji Marshall a late omission with a hamstring injury and Josh Dugan failing to overcome an arm problem suffered in State of Origin III, the Dragons looked disjointed in attack.
The Dragons will end the round on the edge of the top eight after leading the competition just six weeks ago while the Sharks jumped into ninth.
Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen, backing up from Wednesday’s Origin decider, was tireless with 185 metres from 20 runs and 24 tackles while Andrew Fifita ran for a game-high 203 metres.
The Sharks went into the sheds up 16-4 but the Dragons were lucky to be in the contest after the home side dominated the opening 40 minutes.
Luke Lewis celebrated his 250th NRL match by scoring one of his side’s three first-half tries.
The second half turned into an arm wrestle and the Dragons had their share of opportunities in the Sharks’ 20 metre zone but failed to convert.
Cronulla iced the game in the 66th minute when Andrew Fifita scooped up a Michael Ennis grubber.
Ben Barba celebrated an eye-catching performance, which also included one of the year’s best try-savers, on Ben Creagh, when he put the icing on the cake three minutes later.
Runciman scored a consolation four-pointer to bag a double.