Sharks v Knights: Five key points
After starting the competition as the only undefeated team, the Knights have lost two on the trot, while the Sharks have undergone a resurgence to win their last two games after a 0-4 start. Here are five things we learned from their clash at Remondis Stadium.
Knights don’t like wet weather
Since starting the season undefeated through the first four rounds the Newcastle Knights have now lost two straight, both in horrible wet conditions.
They only managed to cross for one try against the Sharks, while last week they failed to score any points at all at home to the Dragons.
Their halves have looked uncomfortable trying to set up plays in wet conditions and will be hoping the rain stays away for next Sunday's clash with the Eels.
Knights coach Rick Stone said after Friday night's loss that his side was always going to struggle chasing down the Sharks lead as a torrential downpour began in the second half.
"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."
The Sharks have confidence in their attack
They hardly looked like scoring in their first few rounds of football, but now, with some confidence in their attack the Sharks are looking dangerous from all parts of the park with ball in hand.
Much of that shift has been thanks to the appointment of youngster Jack Bird at five-eighth whose efforts have inspired those around him to really back themselves in attacking situations.
Coach Shane Flanagan attributed his side's attacking improvements to some youthful exuberance across the park.
"We scored some nice tries and it was something with a bit of youth in our team, Jack scored one and Val [Valentine Holmes] set up another one so they're free and they shoot the breeze sometimes and things come off for them and that's good for us," Flanagan said.
Ben Barba is an asset on the bench
Barba had an impressive return against the Knights after a two-week suspension.
He looked dangerous throughout the encounter and was hungry to get involved until a late ankle injury saw him hobble off field.
"He showed some touches tonight and scored a good try so he'll be back," Flanagan said.
If he is back from that injury next week, Flanagan is planning to use him as a super-sub considering his ability to cover a number of positions in the backline.
"Benny gives me that coverage there in the halves that we won't lose our way if Michael [Ennis] has to come off, so it gives us that insurance off the bench and if you get a back injury he can play anywhere there so so he covers nine and covers every position in the backs for me."
Joseph Leilua is a hit man on the edges
With Jack Bird beginning to worry the Knights defence Joey Leilua decided to show everyone how brutal he can be in defence with a couple of punishing hits on the Sharks youngster.
Firstly in the 33rd minute Leilua jammed in on Bird as he received the ball, blindsiding him with a rattling tackle. The hit left the Sharks youngster clutching his ribs in a real 'welcome to first grade' moment.
However the pain wasn't over as just three minutes later the big Knights centre lined him up again with another bone cruncher that knocked the ball loose.
The Sharks needed a win at home
Having gone almost a year between victories at Remondis Stadium the 10,057 Cronulla fans who braved poor weather on Friday night deserved a win to cheer about.
Especially after the Sharks' excruciating loss in the last home game to the Titans, everyone involved with the Sharks knew how important it was to start to rebuild the fortress.
"It was disappointing the way we started this year for our home fans," captain Paul 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."