With four games to play the Sharks are in the box seat to snare a crucial top-four position while the season appears to be over for the Dragons.
The Sharks needed only three minutes to open the scoring when Nicho Hynes strolled over from close range before the Dragons hit back in the ninth minute when a Ben Hunt bomb was spilled by Ronaldo Mulitalo and Jack de Belin picked up the scraps to score.
The Dragons went down a man in the 12th minute when Tariq Sims was sent to the bin for high contact on Sharks winger Connor Tracey.
The Sharks looked to have crossed again in the 21st minute through Mulitalo but the final pass from Wade Graham was ruled forward.
It took the home side just four minutes to make amends when stand-in five-eighth Braydon Trindall bamboozled De Belin and Talatau Amone with a show-and-go and crossed to make it 12-6.
Coming into the starting side when Matt Moylan withdrew with a quad strain, Trindall looked right at home, laying on a try Teig Wilton with a sweet pass close to the line.
The Sharks went down to 12 men when Blayke Brailey was sin binned on the stroke of half-time for laying in the ruck too long and the Red V capitalised in the 44th minute when Amone put Tautau Moga over with a long cut-out pass. Zac Lomax's sideline conversion made it 18-12.
When Mat Feagai finished off crisp lead-up work by Ben Hunt and Jack Bird in the 55th minute the Dragons were back within two points.
With the game in the balance it was a spilled bomb by Tyrell Sloan opening the door for the Sharks, with Briton Nikora picking up the scraps and linking with Brailey who found Graham for the try. Hynes converted for 24-16.
An offside penalty against the Sharks with two minutes to play handed Lomax the chance to get the Dragons within six points but that was as close as the Red V would get, Moses Mbye dropping the ball at dummy half to put paid to their last shot at points.
The Dragons now find themselves four points outside the eight with a points differential of -130, the worst of any of the sides scrambling for eighth spot.
- Dragons forward Tariq Sims was put on report and sin binned in the 12th minute for high contact on Sharks winger Connor Tracey, who left the field on a stretcher.
- Cronulla hooker Blayke Brailey was sin binned in the 39th minute for a professional foul.
- PointsBet Stadium was a sell-out for the local derby, following on from Friday night's sell-out at 4 Pines Park for Manly and Parramatta. The 'house full' sign will also go up at Bundaberg's Salter Oval on Sunday for the Bulldogs and Cowboys.
- Sharks debutant Kade Dykes had 13 runs for 96 metres from fullback.
- Dragons hooker Andrew McCullough came into the game averaging 35 tackles per game and came up with 32 tonight.
- Mat Feagai is now the Dragons' leading tryscorer for the season with seven.
- The Dragons have won only two from 12 against top-eight opposition in 2022.
- Nicho Hynes was outstanding for the Sharks with a try, four goals, 145 running metres and five tackle breaks.
- The Sharks made 17 errors to the Dragons' nine and completed at just 68 per cent (34 of 50).
- The Sharks have won eight from nine at PointsBet Stadium this season.
- The Sharks have won their past five games against the Dragons.
Play of the Game
With the Dragons nipping at their heels with 15 minutes to play the Sharks capitalised on a Tyrell Sloan error to get some breathing space at 24-16. Briton Nikora put pressure on Sloan and then put the loose ball on his boot and did well to scoop it up before finding Blayke Brailey in support, the hooker delivering the final pass to Wade Graham for the try. The four-pointer was Graham's first since round 20 of the 2020 season against Canberra and was just reward for his tireless support play.
What They Said
"We had a lot to overcome during the week, a lot of hurdles to jump there but we still found a way and whoever came in did their job, so I'm happy about that. More changes throughout the game as well so there's a lot of positive stuff with character and toughness but we need to play better than that. Lucky for us we had Lachie Miller there today who was a pretty handy replacement for us [when Connor Tracey] went off. You don't want to see that happen to anyone but Lachie got the job done again for us." - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon
"We gave everything but at times we just didn't execute, catching kicks and then we had our chances in good ball we were just a little clunky at times. Over the past three weeks we have played some really good football apart from probably 15 minutes against the Cowboys at the back end of last week. That's why it's frustrating because we've played three really good sides and put ourselves in a position to win every game. We did a lot of things right to try and win that game today so we have to dust ourselves off and keep coming at it next Sunday [against the Raiders]." - Dragons coach Anthony Griffin
The Sharks finish the season with four matches against teams outside the top eight, starting with Wests Tigers in Tamworth in Round 22 followed by Sea Eagles (a), Bulldogs (h) and Knights (a). They welcome back Dale Finucane from suspension for the Tigers game.
The Dragons expect to have Cody Ramsey back on deck for the crucial road trip to Canberra in Round 22. They host the Titans at WIN Stadium in Round 23 before finishing the regular season against Wests Tigers in Round 24 and the Broncos in Round 25.
Story first published on NRL.com