A late field goal to James Maloney may have resulted in a win for the Cronulla Sharks but it was the spirited fightback by the Newcastle Knights that has everyone talking.
The Sharks looked in control for much of the match as they held onto a 12-point lead with just 11 minutes to go but as they have shown already this year, the Knights resolve shone through and they clawed their way back.
The side from the shire dominated possession with 60% but the Knights did not let that phase them as Brendan Elliott began their comeback when he broke through from the scrum and raced 90m to score, showing surprising speed.
That was followed up by an error from Valentine Holmes in-goal that led to a try for Jacob Gagan, playing in his debut game for the Knights.
Despite a break up the middle with five minutes to go by the Sharks, the Knights scrambling defence stayed resolute, in the end, opting for the field goal.
Rewinding to the start of the game, it took the Sharks just six minutes to score after Chad Townsend and Gerard Beale combined to produce the game’s first points.
The Knights managed to hit back soon after, though, as Englishman Joe Wardle, in just his second NRL game, scored a try.
The highlight was a tremendous break by Valentine Holmes playing at fullback as he pierced the Knights defence, linked up with Jack Bird, before going on to score himself.
With a renewed resolve and never-say-die attitude this year, the Sharks players praised the Knights efforts.
“Full credit to Newcastle… I thought they played really well, they completed well and defended outstanding on their line,” Sharks back-rower Luke Lewis said post-game.
“They really made us play and full credit to them they got back in the game.
“They made us ask questions and it got a little bit frustrating.”
Knights coach Nathan Brown praised his side given many gave them no chance of winning or competing but knows that a lack of control late on might have cost them.
“I think everyone would agree with the quality of opposition that we played, the fact that the amount of possession that they had through their good management was outstanding,” Brown said.
“[Cronulla’s] game management suggests why they’ve won a grand final and are one of the more favoured teams to do well.”
Player of the Game:
3. Valentine Holmes
2. Brendan Elliott
- Paul Gallen
Sharks 19 (Beale, Feki, Holmes tries; Maloney 3 goals; Maloney 1 field goal) defeated Knights 18 (Wardle, Elliot, Gagan tries; Hodkinson 3 goal) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Half-time: Sharks 14-6. Crowd: 12,838.