Making a surprise return this week as a sub on the bench, no-one was sure just how well Ben Barba was going to play but he made his presence known, coming off the bench to spark the Cronulla Sharks attack and lead them to a 30-28 win.
Trailing by 10 points on two different occasions, the Sharks showed their resolve to stay in the contest and it eventually paid off for them.
The loss means that their opponents, the Newcastle Knights, have now lost four games in a row and nine out of their last ten.
At one stage, it looked like the Knights were in control as soon after half-time, they extended their lead. But with Barba showing his super sub-like ability and their key players stepping up, they wrestled back momentum and it led to points.
The game did have back and forth moments and Knights fans will be left wondering how and why they could not close out the game when it mattered.
There were some positive for the Knights, though, with potential QLD Origin centre Dane Gagai again performing strongly as well as youngster Jake Mamo.
The Knights fans were given a glimpse into what may be the future, with Mamo starring from the fullback role and proving that when given a chance, he is more than ready and willing to step up.
There may yet be further anguish for the Knights fans, with forwards Kade Snowden and Tariq Sims both placed on report.
With Barba’s introduction to the game after winger Sosaia Feki limped off, very few expected a performance like that from him but it was one that captain Wade Graham praised.
“He’s a class player. He sees things before other people do and when he comes off the bench and floats around the middle as he did he’s going to be challenging for any side to handle,” Sharks’ captain Wade Graham said.
Equally impressive was five-eighth Jack Bird. Thrust into the side at the start of the year, his rise as a quality player has been evident and it was again on show, as he put in a man-of-the-match performance.
“It’s funny we joked about him getting Man of the Match this week,” Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.
“He’s such a confident kid, he said ‘oh yeah, no worries, I’ll do that’ I think on Tuesday and he went out and did it.”
There were no excuses or complaints from Knights coach Rick Stone. He was honest and knows that if his side are to somehow resurrect their season, they have to perform better.
“I suppose we’re going to have to work hard on all our boys, keep challenging them and understand it is two steps forward, one step back,” Stone said.
“They’re disappointed with themselves â€“ they lost a game today they probably did enough to win.”
With several young kids in the side, it was a glimpse into the future for the Knights, and Stone praised the efforts of those players in the game despite the loss.
“You’ve got to be happy with a young fella like Jake. He’s an intelligent kid and he knows he’s got plenty to learn and still a lot in front of him â€“ his attitude is terrific,” Stone said.
“I thought [Danny] was pretty solid too. For a 19-year-old making his debut I think he handled himself, acquitted himself pretty well physically and his decision-making process and how he handled himself when he went out there.”
Player of the Game:
3. Jack Bird
2. Luke Lewis
1. Ben Barba
Cronulla Sharks 30 (Jack Bird 2, Valentine Holmes, Luke Lewis, Ben Barba Tries; Michael Gordon 5 Goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 28 (Jake Mamo, Beau Scott, Carlos Tuimavave, Kade Snowden Tries; Kurt Gidley 6 Goals) at Hunter Stadium. Half-time: Knights 16-12. Crowd: 14,081. On Report: Kade Snowden (Knights), Tariq Sims (Knights)