Cronulla have gained derby bragging rights with a stirring 32-18 victory over St George Illawarra in a niggly, wet and sometimes wild NRL encounter at Kogarah.
Tempers flared and fists flew but it was mostly the Sharks who fired as Dragons let themselves down.
Playing under former Brisbane and Penrith mentor Anthony Griffin for the first time, the Dragons were dreadful in the first half as Cronulla cashed in on a masterful wet-weather kicking game to lead 14-0 at the break.
The Dragons rallied upon the resumption, threatening to seize the lead with an exciting 10-minute burst.
But the Sharks, with off-contract veterans Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan playing like their futures depended on it, weathered the storm to take the round-one competition points.
"It's a good reward for a lot of hard effort that's gone in over the pre- season," said Sharks coach John Morris.
"We certainly raised the bar with a few of the things we did, getting ready for the year, and I was confident coming here when you put in that sort of work.
"A few nervous moments in the second half but I was happy for them to hang on and it's always good to win a local derby," he said.
While the victory eased some early-season pressure on Morris, it could be a long year for Griffin and his equal wooden-spoon favourites.
They might have won this game if not for a series of clumsy and fundamental blunders, starting almost from the get-go.
"It was a frustrating round-one game," Griffin said.
"We gave them 14-start and that was the difference in the end.
"We had to make 120 more tackles and we did that to ourselves.
"You feed a team like them 12 or 13 errors in our end, you're going to pay," Griffin said.
Red V winger Cody Ramsey suffered a foot injury midway through the second half and failed to finish the game although Griffin indicated it doesn't seem to be too serious.
With AAP, Image: Dragons TV