By Mary Maidiotis
The St George Illawarra Dragons were triumphant in their 42-6 win against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Sunday.
The Red-and-Whites obliterated the defence of their local rivals, running in a total of six tries in front of a full house.
Head Coach Paul McGregor made slight changes to the side named mid-week with Will Matthews starting in the second-row in lieu of Joel Thompson, shifting Jake Marketo onto the bench.
The hosts opened the scoring within the first five minutes when five-eighth Gareth Widdop kicked a penalty goal.
The Sharks responded a few minutes later through winger Valentine Holmes, who jumped on five-eighth Jack Bird’s perfectly-placed punt.
Winger Michael Gordon slotted the conversion to make it 6-2 after 10 minutes.
Red V halfback Benji Marshall displayed some fancy footwork in the 18th minute, stepping past several Sharks players and placing his side in prime position for fullback Josh Dugan to score in the ensuing play.
Widdop converted from right in front to regain the lead.
The home-side continued their momentum leading into half-time with hooker Mitch Rein pouncing on a kick to score slightly to the left of the posts.
Widdop had no troubles with the conversion, extending the lead to 14 points at the break.
The locals were first to strike on return when Matthews crashed through the opposition defence and found the white line.
Widdop retained his 100% strike rate for the afternoon, making it 20 points to six, minutes into the second forty.
The Dragons seized the opportunity to add on an extra two points ten minutes later.
The Red-and-Whites found the line again on the mark of the third-quarter through Jack de Belin who managed to get a finger on a Marshall grubber.
Minutes later, winger Peter Mata’utia ensured the hosts were in once more, scoring in the left corner.
Widdop converted on both occasions, extending the scoreline to 34-6.
Fijian flyer Eto Nabuli sealed the victory for the Red V with an impressive leaping try which was converted by Widdop, making it a perfect night off the boot for him.
The hosts were awarded a third penalty on the cusp of the final whistle which Widdop converted with ease to make it 42-6.
St George Illawarra Dragons: 42. Tries: Dugan, Rein, Matthews, de Belin, Mata’utia, Nabuli. Goals: Widdop (6/6). Penalty Goals: Widdop (3/3).
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: 6. Tries: Holmes. Goals: Gordon (1/1).