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Newcastle Knights 24 def Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 12

NEWCASTLE overcame the loss of Steve Simpson and Jarrod Mullen to post a brave away win over Cronulla Sharks at Toyota Stadium.

The Knights played good rugby league for 45 minutes to forge a 24-6 lead. Then they did their best to give the game back to Cronulla with a series of dropped ball and penalties.

But the Sharks simply weren’t good enough to turn possession into points. Their vocal home supporters won’t be encouraged by this showing, with only Trent Barrett looking dangerous for the locals. Ricky Stuart will run them into the ground at training this week.

The Game Swung When… A 40/20 by late call-up Scott Dureau in the 45th minute, coming immediately after the Knights had stretched their lead to 18-6, was a massive fillip for the visitors. When impressive back-rower Richie Fa’aoso plunged over next to the posts and made it 24-6, the Sharks were staring down the barrel of a belting. They didn’t get one, per se, but they did end up well beaten.

That said, with 30 minutes left, Fa’aoso dropped the ball with a whole swathe of Toyota Stadium beckoning. A minute later the Sharks scored and instead of it being 30-6 and advancing, it was 24-12 and still a ball game.

With 10 minutes to go, Barrett was barrelled into touch by a giant gaggle of keen Knights defenders. A few minutes later Barrett charged through after a grubber but couldn’t snaffle it because it hit the post. Out of time and out of luck, the Sharks were done and dusted, the visitors going on to record an away win they no doubt sang about loud and strong on the bus home.

Who Was Hot… Scott Dureau did some good things with the ball, shouldering most of the play-making for Newcastle after Mullen went off. Junior Sau made good inroads (13 runs, 106 metres), Zeb Taia was a workhorse lock (16 runs, four one-on-one tackles) while winger Akuila Uate ran with purpose and looks one to watch.

The best player on the field was Trent Barrett, who will win the Sharks plenty of games in season ’09. On the losing end this evening, Barrett is a class act, and if there were two or three more like him for the Sharks they’d have won by 20.

Who Was Not… Was Anthony Tupou even playing? Yes, he made 34 tackles but in attack he was anonymous. And apart from Paul Gallen and Trent Barrett, the rest of the Sharks played ordinary, listless, robotic rugby league.

Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… In the 15th minute, perhaps the softest, least-contested scrum in the ignoble recent history of non-contested scrums. In a game as hard and physical as rugby league, the soft “breather” ritual of the scrum is a joke and a blight on the great game of rugby league. From this perspective, scrums need to become a contest or just done away with completely. Does any other sport have an element in which players purposely don’t try?

In the 21st minute, 35 metres out, Trent Barrett put up a fine bomb, raced ahead and timed his leap for the ball perfectly. The ball rebounded off his shoulder, popped up and into his arms before he touched down under the posts. Great try from a great player.

Minutes later Barrett was at it again, throwing a perfect flat pass for Misi Taulapapa to plunge over in the corner, only the video ref decided it was No Try. In the 30th minute, Junior Sau was barrelled into touch in-goal by four – count ’em four! – Sharks defenders but somehow – somehow! – popped the ball back into the in-goal for Cory Patterson (who had almost stuffed up the backline move by trying a flick pass when no such skill was required) to fall upon and record the four points.

Blake Green’s try in the 50th minute featured four dummies in a sliding 20 metre dash to the line.

And finally, please, nobody – nobody – tell Cameron Ciraldo’s mum about the replay of her boy’s ankle injury. Mums don’t need to see these things. No-one does.

Bad Boys… Misi Taulapapa was later charged with a head slam on Junior Sau that will see him sidelined for a game with an early guilty plea.

Ben Pomeroy copped a careless high tackle charge but given his good record will be free to play with an early guilty plea.

Ref Watch… Good game from the officials in a night that featured some fairly close calls. To wit: Misi Taulapapa was perhaps unlucky not to get benefit of the doubt on his try-in-the-corner sprawl. Chris Houston’s try had a bare hint of double-movement and might have been referred upstairs, but it was not. And with the ref right there on the spot, pointing to the spot, let’s applaud Brett Suttor for the courage in his convictions. Try time, play on. Best & Fairest… 3 points – Trent Barrett (Sharks): A class above most here. Scored a great try, assisted another, and constantly looked the man most likely to spark something for the Sharks; 2 points – Scott Dureau (Knights): Kicked a crunch 40/20, scored a try, laid one on and drove the Knights around the park; 1 point – Isaac De Gois (Knights): 36 tackles and slick ball distribution from dummy-half.

Knights 24 (S Dureau, C Patterson, S Houston, R Fa’aoso tries; K Gidley 4 goals) def Sharks 12 (T Barrett, B Green tries; L Covell 2 goals) at Toyota Stadium. Crowd: 11,148.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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