Million-dollar half Ben Hunt made his case for a permanent move to dummy half on Sunday after mass changes sparked St George Illawarra’s first win of the NRL season.
Hunt was dropped to the bench for the local derby with Cronulla but came on in the 22nd minute of Sunday’s 30-16 win at Campbelltown Stadium.
Coming into the match it had been 86 days since the Dragons last scored a try, but they managed five against the Sharks to ease some pressure on under-fire coach Paul McGregor .
Hunt’s shift to dummy half pushed skipper Cameron McInnes to lock, while recalled fullback Matt Dufty added spark to the backline, with Corey Norman moving back into the halves.
It was the second week in a row Norman has been shifted between the two positions, but he appeared more comfortable calling the shots next to rookie halfback Adam Clune.
After earning a reprieve from the Dragons’ board on Monday, McGregor’s changes had the desired effect to take some heat off his position at the club, at least for now.
Repositioned stars Hunt, Dufty and McInnes all scored, giving McGregor a vote of confidence in his selection decisions and helping to avoid their worst-ever start to an NRL season.
A crowd of vocal fans gathered to watch in executive suites at the stadium and in carpark of the Western Suburbs Leagues Club next to the ground.
And while the Dragons celebrated just their third win from their past 15 games, the Sharks did their best to spoil the party until the dying minutes.
The Dragons led 18-10 at halftime and extended the lead through McInnes in the 62nd minute, but when Sharks skipper Wade Graham scored with 10 minutes on the clock the intensity kicked up a notch.
However, they could not find the polish to their sets and the Dragons held on for the win with a late try to Mikaele Ravalawa sealing the win.
The Dragons will now play Gold Coast on Saturday, while the Sharks will be looking to bounce back against Canterbury next Sunday.