Four-try hero Valentine Holmes was the toast of the NRL on Sunday afternoon after his show-stealing performance in the Sharks' 62-0 win over the Knights. And he did it despite coming away with a hip complaint in the process of scoring his first four-pointer.
Holmes' first try in the eighth minute at Hunter Stadium was completely against the run of play and an instant momentum-turner for the Sharks. The 20-year-old raced and beat Knights fullback Dane Gagai to the ball following a Luke Lewis kick and touched down just inches in from the dead-ball line, landing with a thud.
It obviously didn't perturb him too much as he went on to secure a hat-trick midway through the first half before scoring his fourth just six minutes into the second 40.
"Half of it is pretty much a fluke. Us wingers don't practice [diving for tries] at all at training in case we get injured," Holmes laughed. "It's just a matter of backing yourself and being determined to get there.
"My hip is sweet, I just copped a knock there when I scored my first try so I guess it was a good way to get injured."
Holmes had a perfect opportunity to make it five tries in the dying minutes but his hesitation prevented him from becoming just the second Shark ever to score five tries in a game – with Andrew Ettingshausen achieving the feat twice in his illustrious career.
The play in the 74th minute wasn't all in vain though, with Sharks five-eighth James Maloney sending the ball out wide to Sosaia Feki for him to secure his hat-trick on the very next tackle.
Holmes, who otherwise did what he wanted for the most part with eight tackle breaks and more than 200 run metres, was obviously upbeat about the win and said it was the most settled he and the team have been in his short career after debuting in the Sharks' tumultuous 2014 campaign.
"I wouldn't have scored all those tries without all the good ball movement from all the boys so big ups to them for helping me. The coaching staff and everyone involved has done really well and the boys are gaining confidence week by week," Holmes said.
"We're training really well especially on the right edge, and we have plenty more talk and clarity there so it's all good and I'm really settled myself.
"I'm happy off the field which is definitely helping me play better on the field too. I'm training well at the moment and it's a good environment to be in at the moment."
One man in particular who really helped Holmes shine against the Knights was Ben Barba. The Sharks fullback and Queensland Origin hopeful was integral in half of his teammate's tries.
"[Barba] is playing really well. He's playing out of his skin and he's producing highlights similar to when he won the Dally M in 2012," Holmes said.
"He's a lot happier off the field and at training and that's why I think he's playing his best footy."