Cronulla has bounced back from last week’s hammering at the hands of Manly, albeit in unconvincing circumstances, with a 16-13 triumph over Newcastle tonight at Toyota Stadium.
The Sharks have a reputation for turning matches into dour wars of attrition, and this one was no exception, with the entire second half yielding just four points â€“ all from the boot of Luke Covell.
After an evenly contested first half, Jarrod Mullen snapped a field goal on the stroke of halftime to break a 12-all deadlock and give the Knights the lead by the barest of margins at the break.
The visitors held the lead until the 57th minute, when a penalty against Chris Bailey for not clearing the ruck presented Luke Covell with a penalty to give the Sharks back the ascendancy.
The Knights lost Mullen to injury in the 64th minute, but none of their desperation in defence as they continued to thwart the Sharks attempts at killing off the game.
Scott Dureau had a shot at a game-levelling drop goal in the 76th minute, but his attempt sailed just wide, before Covell added another penalty goal with two minutes remaining to seal the win.
Fraser Anderson was the first to cross the line for the Sharks early in the match, but the barnstorming back-rower was denied his fourth try of the season by a Kurt Gidley special.
The Knights’ Mr-Fix-it sandwiched himself between Anderson and the turf to save a certain four pointer.
But the Newcastle fullback had no answer for a Brett Kimmorley attacking raid two sets later.
Dave Simmons crashed over the stripe to open the scoring for Cronulla after a looping pass from Kimmorley hit Anderson on the chest, creating the overlap and a six point lead for the home team.
The Knights struck back in sensational fashion in the 18th minute, as Mullen evoked memories of the great Andrew Johns.
Mullen produced a Johns-esque banana kick that was met by a steaming Zeb Taia who touched down next to the posts, with the scores soon locked at six following Gidley’s conversion.
The Sharks looked to have benefited from a hefty slice of luck when a Kimmorley grubber cannoned off the post and was fallen upon for a try, but Kade Snowden was pinged for being in front of the kicker, letting the visitors off the hook.
But not for long, a pin-point cross-kick from Kimmorley was met by a towering leap from Anderson, and the Sharks were back in front on the half-hour mark.
Newcastle again responded to the Sharks challenge, as two rookies combined to get the game back on an even keel.
Pocket-rocker Junior Sau came down with a Mullen bomb in traffic, and managed to get a one arm offload to Akuila Uate, who raced around to touch down under the sticks on debut.
CRONULLA 16 (D Simmons F Anderson tries L Covell 4 goals)
NEWCASTLE 13 (Z Taia A Uate tries K Gidley 2 goals J Mullen field goal)