The Sharks recorded an 18-0 shut-out of a gritty Knights side in windy conditions at PointsBet Stadium on Friday night.
Playing in southerly winds gusting at up to 65kph, the Sharks proved too hard to handle for a Knights outfit who lost Tyson Frizell to a hamstring injury and were already without forwards David Klemmer (knee), Lachlan Fitzgibbon (knee) and Mitch Barnett (suspended).
Stand-in centre Siosifa Talakai was outstanding for Cronulla and made 17 tackle breaks as he scored a try and carried the ball for 228 metres, while creating space for his left edge winger Ronaldo Mulitalo, who ran 207 metres with the ball.
Prop Aiden Tolman scored a try in his 300th NRL appearance, while winger Sione Katoa and fullback Will Kennedy also crossed but halfback Nicho Hynes was only able to land one goal in horrific conditions for kicking.
Things you love to see: Tolman scoring in his 300th
However, what pleased Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon the most about his side's third consecutive win was their defence, as the Sharks held an opponent scoreless for the first time since 2016.
Match: Sharks v Knights
Round 4 -
Venue: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney
- Aiden Tolman celebrated his 300th NRL appearance by scoring the opening try of the match when he crashed over from close range in the 27th minute.
- The Sharks appeared set to score again three minutes later after winger Sione Katoa grubbered into the Newcastle in-goal and star fullback Kalyn Ponga had an air swing with his left foot but the Tonga international bounced the ball.
- Make shift centre Siosifa Talakai also had a try disallowed just minutes later due to an obstruction after fullback Will Kennedy ran behind Cameron McInnes before passing to Matt Moylan.
Talakai breaking tackles with ease
- Katoa made amends for his earlier gaffe when he finished a backline shift to score with a spectacular acrobatic put down on the stroke of halftime.
- Trailing 8-0, the Knights were still in the game but the loss of Tyson Frizell with a hamstring injury and Dom Young's sin-binning midway through the second half hurt them.
- Talakai scored the try he so richly deserved in the 70th minute after a cut out pass from Nicho Hynes unleashed winger Ronaldo Multitalo, who passed inside for the big centre. Talakai palmed off Knights lock Kurt Mann with a big don't argue to the chest and raced away to score.
Talakai streaks away down the left
- Fullback Will Kennedy sealed the win three minutes before fulltime after Talakai shrugged off Dane Gagai to send Mulitalo racing down the touchline and the winger kicked inside for Kennedy to score.
The Sharks left edge is turning it on now
Play of the game
After having an earlier try disallowed, Sharks winger Sione Katoa ensured his team went to the halftime break with an 8-0 lead after scoring with a spectacular put down as he dived from outside the field of play to plant the ball following a backline shift. It was as good to watch as it was significant to the outcome of the game.
Long shift finished with some sublime Katoa acrobatics
What they said
"Sifa grew up a centre and obviously he can play middle, backrow and centre so that was a big job for him out there. I thought that the back five were enormous to start the sets and we got off the back of that so there was plenty of good performers but Sifa probably stood out. I thought it was crucial for him to be able to hold up his position against Dane Gagai, who is a quality player. They sort of ding-donged a little bit there but I thought there was no fuss from Sifa, he just went about his work and had a quality performance. He'll keep working at his game and we will see where he lands, whether it is backrow, centre or middle": Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.
“I understand we need to spend some together, hang tight and keep fighting hard through his period and we’ll come out the other side. There are signs there we’re not laying down and having a crack. We can get the polish stuff back, it was there a few weeks ago": Knights coach Adam O'Brien.
The Sharks will be looking to extend their winning streak to four matches when they host Wests Tigers next Sunday, while the Knights will be seeking to return to the winner's circle against Manly on Thursday night after back-to-back losses.
Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon is expected to have Connor Tracey available to call on after he missed the match against Newcastle due to HIA protocols but Siosifa Talakai had such a huge impact that it must be tempting to leave him at left centre.
Captain Wade Graham is due to return from an ankle injury in round six.
Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien will be sweating on the fitness of Tyson Frizell after the NSW Origin second-rower was forced to leave the field with a hamstring injury midway through the second half.
The Knights stand firm in defence
Jamaican winger Dom Young was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle in the 61st minute that will come under scrutiny from the NRL match review panel.
Hymel Hunt is the only Knights player close to a return after being sidelined by a knee injury.