Euan Aitken of the Dragons celebrates scoring a try with Jack De Belin.
Euan Aitken of the Dragons celebrates scoring a try with Jack De Belin.

Origin hopefuls shine for Dragons

"PICK them all".

That was Phil Gould's advice to NSW coach Brad Fittler on Friday night as St George Illawarra's unbeaten start to the season continued with a comprehensive 40-20 win over Cronulla.

On a night the Sharks took a battering with key injuries to Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham, the Dragons State of Origin hopefuls stood up in the six tries to four win.

Hooker Cameron McInnes, prop Paul Vaughan, centre Euan Aitken are all in Blues contention along with backrowers Tyson Frizell, Jack de Belin and Tariq Sims.

Fittler has previously said he would call on Gould's experience as he prepares for his first series in charge.

Euan Aitken celebrates scoring a try with Jack De Belin.
Euan Aitken celebrates scoring a try with Jack De Belin.

 

And in Channel Nine commentary, Gould was full of praise for Dragons and their Origin contenders in particular.

With plenty of the Blues' incumbents struggling for form this year, Andrew Johns raised the issue about how many Dragons you could pick in the NSW team.

Gould said that if they stayed in form, you couldn't go wrong giving them all a go.

McIness, Vaughan and Aitken all crossed for tries as did de Belin while Frizell and Sims were probably the standouts overall.

Ben Hunt also didn't do his Queensland Origin hopes any harm with another fine game.

Fullback Matt Dufty was also brilliant and finished with two tries against a Sharks side that crossed for four tries but never really stood a chance because of their injury toll.

Tyson Frizell takes on the Sharks defence.
Tyson Frizell takes on the Sharks defence.

 

Gallen (knee), Fifita (ankle) and Graham (hamstring) all suffered their injuries in the first half.

Gallen only lasted 13 minutes before falling awkwardly in a tackle and damaging the medial ligaments in his right knee.

Fifita had a barnstorming start where he ran for 109m and set up a try for Jayden Brailey but his night came to an end in the 30th minute.

The big prop limped from the field with fears he had done some serious damage to the ligaments in his left ankle.

Graham did his hamstring in the first half and tried to return but left the field in the 50th minute.

All three will have scans on Saturday to determine the extent of their injuries.

Cronulla also lost Luke Lewis in the final minutes with a cork.

 

Andrew Fifita left the field injured.
Andrew Fifita left the field injured.

 

It is a massive concern with the Sharks now taking on Penrith next Sunday and likely to be without Gallen, Fifita and Graham and desperate after winning only two of their first six games.

The referees blew 16 first half penalties as well as sin binning McInnes but that still didn't spoil some wonderful attacking football from both teams.

Dufty opened with a ripper try in ninth minute.

After starting midfield on the 30m line, the flying fullback raced almost across to one touchline before doubling back and heading straight across to the other.

He eventually exposed a hole through Trent Hodkinson and sprinted away for a brilliant touchdown.

 

Cronulla's Paul Gallen suffered a knee injury. Picture: Brett Costello
Cronulla's Paul Gallen suffered a knee injury. Picture: Brett Costello

 

Fifita set up Jayden Brailey's try with a clever late offload almost as soon as McInnes left the field and Edrick Lee also touched down while the Dragons were down to 12 men.

In a seesawing first half, Gareth Widdop's goal kicking proved the difference after landing three penalty conversions.

McIness also scored a tremendous individual try when he blasted through Wade Graham and Kurt Dillon before outsprinting Matt Moylan on a 45m run to the tryline.

The Dragons started the second half fast with Dufty crossing for his second two minutes after the break with a neat in and away on Matt Moylan.

And when Vaughan punched over five minutes later it blew the lead out to 28-10.

The Sharks showed some great spirit to fight their way back with tries to Valentine Holmes (52m) and Ricky Leutele (58m) to pull the deficit back to eight points heading into the final quarter.

But when Jack de Belin barged his through three defenders it was back out to 14 points and Cronulla were spent.

Aitken finished off the win with another try in final 10 minutes

Full-time ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 40 (M Dufty 2 E Aitken J De Belin C McInnes P Vaughan tries G Widdop 8 goals) bt CRONULLA 20 (J Brailey V Holmes E Lee R Leutele tries C Townsend 2 goals) at WIN Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 17,882



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