Sharks snap home hoodoo
The Cronulla Sharks have won their first match at home in almost a year, scoring a 22-6 victory over the Newcastle Knights on a cold and rainy Friday night at Remondis Stadium.
WATCH: Jack Bird finishes a magic team try
WATCH: Full match highlights
WATCH: Sharks press conference
WATCH: Knights press conference
Match stats, scores, highlights
It was another disciplined performance from the Sharks after their clinical last-start win over the Roosters, their confidence clearly buoyed by that match, looking nothing like the team that dropped their three previous home matches.
While the Sharks were rock solid in defence the Knights playmakers failed to seriously trouble the defensive line, lacking imagination in trying conditions.
Ben Barba had an impressive return to action after a two week lay-off and saw action earlier than expected with Michael Gordon pulled from fullback in the first half.
However Barba's night was soured as he was forced off in the 76th minute with a reoccurrence of an ankle injury that has caused him ongoing problems.
After the match Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said he was pleased that his side managed to follow up last week's breakout performance against the Roosters.
"To back it up from the way we played against the Roosters was really important... we can't have it as a one off, we see the game that we played against the Roosters and tonight as the way we play."
Meanwhile Knights coach Rick Stone admitted his side was outplayed in the torrential conditions at Remondis Stadium.
"[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."
The match started with both teams trading penalty goals in the opening 20 minutes of end-to-end football.
The Knights' first points came after an Andrew Fifita tackle went wrong. He lifted Knights hooker Adam Clydsdale before placing him in a dangerous position. The ensuing penalty allowed Tyrone Roberts to level the scores at two-all in the 12th minute, after Gordon put the Sharks ahead within the opening six minutes.
Fifita was placed on report for the lifting tackle while Clydsdale departed the pitch for Sione Mata'utai who took up the fullback position with Kurt Gidley moving to hooker.
The Sharks then scored the first try of the match in the 25th minute with Jack Bird once again the centrepiece in the third NRL game of his so-far impressive career.
He tracked across field, evading a number of tackles, before putting Ricky Leutele away into a gap. Leutele linked with Sosaia Feki down the left sideline before Bird finished the play supporting up the inside.
Moments later the Sharks were in again with Bird once again featuring, this time supplying a well-timed flick pass to Gerard Beale who in turn put Valentine Holmes away down the right edge. Holmes summed the situation up well with cover coming across to chip a kick in behind which was claimed by Luke Lewis who put the ball down to score his second try in two weeks. Gordon was unable to convert either try, leaving the Sharks 12-2 up at half-time.
The second half got off to a worrying start for Cronulla with David Fifita forced to the sidelines in the opening minutes with an ankle complaint.
That injury left the Sharks with a three-man bench for the remainder of the encounter however any sense of dread was quashed soon after by a brilliant piece of play from Feki and Barba.
While a cross-field kick from Jeff Robson was claimed out wide by the Sharks winger, Barba smartly wrapped around him, creating an overlap which he capitalised on as Feki landed and immediately popped the ball out to his fullback. Valentine Holmes was unable to convert from the sideline making it 16-2 to the Sharks.
The Knights finally crossed the try-line in the 69th minute with Akuila Uate scoring his 100th NRL try. He finished off a nice backline movement that went through the hands of Tyrone Roberts and Dane Gagai who both did well to move the ball quickly in the driving rain.
Newcastle were unable to build pressure however, with just ten minutes left they knocked on off the resulting kick-off.
Three minutes later Chris Heighington made them pay, sealing the result for the Sharks by barging over from short range.
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