Knights v Sharks: Five Key Points
The Sharks made it two wins on the trot while the Knights crumbled to their ninth loss in 10 games. Here are the five key points to come out of Cronulla's 30-28 win over Newcastle.
Feki pain equals Barba gain
It wasn't in the game plan to bring Ben Barba onto the field at the stage he did but as winger Sosaia Feki limped off the paddock, the Cronulla livewire was busy turning the game on its head.
Playing a massive role in the Sharks' three second half tries over a six minute period upon entering proceedings in the 49th minute, Barba provided the spark for a Puall Gallenless Sharks.
"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.
Jack Bird continues to impress
Scoring two tries in a man of the match performance, five-eighth Jack Bird gave his memorable debut season another boost following the Sharks' third win in four outings.
Looking (and playing) well beyond his mere 20 years of age, Bird will prove a worthy challenger for a halves spot in 2016 with James Maloney being a confirmed starter in the Shire and Chad Townsend all but signed on a two-year deal.
"It's funny we joked about him getting Man of the Match this week," 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."
Knights' season flat lines
Rick Stone gave no excuses as Newcastle fell to their fourth-straight defeat. After beginning the year with a streak of four victories, the Knights have won only once since with coach Stone believing the Round 15 capitulation was their steepest of learning curves yet.
"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 – they lost a game today they probably did enough to win."
Newcastle usher in 'Generation Next'
Playing their first game since Joey Leilua's departure, Newcastle were a team chockfull of young talent who are sure to acquaint themselves with the Knights faithful quickly.
Naming Junior Kiwis hooker Danny Levi for his NRL debut, Stone also selected Jake Mamo for his first NRL game of the season alongside other fringe-first graders Paterika Vaivai, Joseph Tapine and Carlos Tuimavave, as key players Tyrone Roberts, Jeremy Smith and Jarrod Mullen watched on from the sideline.
"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 – 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."
Carlos Tuimavave scores Try of the Year contender
Knights five-eighth Tuimavave didn't really have to do anything but put the ball down, but that action could him part of one of the tries of the year, such was the amazing try assist by fullback Mamo.
With the second half in its early stages and the ball on the turf, Mamo decided to put boot to ball from the ground but kicked it too hard, as it looked destined to easily go over the dead ball line.
Alas, Mamo selflessly dove after the ball – remaining technically in the field of the play – to bat it back in for Tuimavave to dive on. There was no self-preservation on the play and it showed a hunger and commitment that Newcastle lacked later in the game.