NEITHER Shellharbour nor Warilla-Lake South let Sunday's rain dampen the enthusiasm, as they both kicked off their 2020 Group Seven season at Cec Glenholmes Oval.
Staying true to form, both sides produced another tough derby, with the Sharks holding on to win the hard-fought contest 24-22.
The visitors jumped out to a 12-10 lead at half-time, thanks to tries from five-eighth Nick Greenhalgh and Brody Rigg - which were both converted by skipper Matt Carroll.
In the second half, Greenhalgh's second and winger Justin Seabrook - along with Carroll's boot - ensured the Sharks held on by two points.
"It was a really tough game like they always are against Warilla," Sharks coach Abed Atallah said.
"I was disappointed with our slow start, seeing us defend for the first 15 minutes straight, due to our handling errors.
"In the same vein, the courageous nature of our defence was very encouraging, as we only let in one try during that period - made even more impressive after losing starting prop James Rousell to a concussion.
"The boys took a lot from that opening part of the game, as it showed we were capable of repelling Warilla's attack - in my eyes, that's where we won the game.
"I know if we had that much possession, I'd hope for more than six points.
"Our desperation on defence was rewarded when we scored on our first visit to Warilla's end - that really gave us the confidence to go on with the win."
With the Sharks being down to 16 players for 70 minutes of the match, Atallah praised the efforts of his whole forward pack, including Juvilee Samiu, Ryan McCracken, Kiran Tranter, Brody Rigg and Kade Sampson.
"I was super proud of all the boys on the way they got into the trenches and ground out that win," Atallah said.
"I was especially impressed by our fitness in that last 20 minutes, considering the heavy conditions.
"I'd much rather win like that than win by 20 - it builds a lot of character which will only get stronger moving forward."
In the loss, local junior Sam Hooper scored two four-pointers, while Kye Deane and Jake Kiznett also crossed.
Five-eighth Blair Grant added three conversions.
Next week, Shellharbour host Gerringong at Ron Costello Oval and Warilla travel to the Kiama Showground to face the Knights.
"Both Gerringong and us both enjoy fast, clean matches and I expect the same next Sunday - especially after what Gerringong showed against Berry," Atallah said.
"Gerringong has been the model of consistency the past five or so years - they are always one of the benchmark clubs that everyone else is striving to beat.
"We can't afford another slow start on Sunday, otherwise the Lions will punish us - we're all really looking forward to the game."