Undergoing a resurgence of sorts, the Cronulla Sharks have won their second straight game and broke their home hoodoo, after a 22-6 win over the Newcastle Knights.
In a wet and cold night at Remondis Stadium, it was the Sharks discipline and fluidity, and the Knights poor attacking options, that were the primary talking points of the game.
There was an impressive return to the NRL for Ben Barba following his suspension but his night was cut short, after he left the field with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
After last week’s break-out performance against competition heavyweights, the Sydney Roosters, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was pleased with how his players rebounded from that win.
“[The] last couple of weeks we’ve played in ordinary weather and we’ve probably played pretty ordinary as well, full credit to the Sharks tonight they had the short turnaround and they came out and played with more intent,” said Flanagan.
There was a further downside to the win, though, with Andrew Fifita put on report for a lifting tackle.
The game belonged to the Sharks, though, as despite the best efforts from the Knights, they just could not capitalise on opportunity.
They were behind the 8-ball and could not keep up with the forward play of the Sharks or the dynamism and youthful exuberance of youngster Jack Bird, who scored a third try in two games.
Things looked optimistic for the Knights when they scored through Fijian flyer Akuila Uate – his 100th try and the first Knights player to reach the milestone – but they were unable to maintain the pressure.
The wet conditions have not been a happy hunting ground for the Knights, with their last two losses coming in cold, rainy conditions.
Coach Rick Stone admitted that it was always going to be a struggle to come back and win when trailing in conditions such as those.
“Obviously as the rain set in it just makes it a little bit harder to chase points,” Stone said.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve played in ordinary weather and we’ve probably played pretty ordinary as well, full credit to the Sharks tonight they had the short turnaround and they come out and played with more intent.
“Full credit to Cronulla they made three errors in tough conditions in the second half and we made nine.”
After some tough losses in the opening four rounds, the Sharks are pleased to have some wins on the board and captain Paul Gallen said the win was for the fans who braved the conditions.
“It was disappointing the way we started this year for our home fans,” Gallen said.
“I think that’s our fourth home game and probably the first couple when you look at the start of the season and how we felt we’d start the year you’d probably pencil them in for a win.
“We really let ourselves down in those first couple of games and also against the Titans so it was good in pretty poor weather to get the win for them.”
Player of the Game:
3. Michael Ennis
2. Chris Heighington
1. Wade Graham
Cronulla Sharks 22 (Bird, Lewis, Barba, Heighington; Gordon 2, Holmes 1 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 6 (Uate try; Roberts goal) at Remondis Stadium. Crowd: 10,057