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The Cronulla Sharks were finishing fifth irrespective of their result against the Knights, but after skipping away to an early 18 point lead, they struggled to put away the Knights, hanging on to claim a hard fought 8 point win.
Cronulla were looking hungry for points right from their opening sets. A poor pass from leutele was knocked on by Holmes, which saw a try go begging inside the first 2 minutes. The Sharks though didn't waste their second chance just 3 minutes later when Holmes dived over from dummy half. Maloney converted from a tricky spot.
Ten minutes later they scored again, this time through a brilliant solo halfback effort by Townsend. He propped, dummied and broke a tackle to run 20 metres to the line to score. Maloney converted from the same spot as his last goal.
A bullocking run by Fifita and then offloading to Prior who hit a gap at pace. Prior looked left and then passed right to find Brailey backing up who ran in to score under the posts. Maloney's conversion gave the Sharks an 18-0 lead after 22 minutes.
To their credit, the Knights never quit. With ten minutes remaining in the half, in-form back rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon dived over to score under the posts after some good teamwork by the Knights kept the ball alive. Debutant Amey got a good ball to Fitzgibbon who dived over. Maloney converted to get the Knights on the board.
Fitzgibbon scored his second try just 4 minutes later after he took a pass from dummy half, hit the Sharks defence on their line, spinning and diving over to score a soft try. Hodkinson slotted the easy goal from in front. At the break the Sharks lead 18-12.
Cronulla opened the scoring in the second half thanks to a penalty goal to James Maloney. Gallen's dominant running game then set up the next try, when he got an offload away to the fleet footed debutant Jesse Ramien who stepped and ran away to score. Maloney converted and the Sharks lead 26-12.
With 20 minutes left in the game, Knights rake Danny Levi scored after a quick scoot and barge over from dummy half. Hodkinson's conversion got the Knights within 8 of the defending premiers.
Both sides had near tries denied in the closing stages of the game, but it was the Sharks who held out the spirited young Knights side who made the Sharks work hard for the win for the second time this year.
Newcastle Knights 18 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 26
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Halftime Score: Newcastle Knights 12 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 18
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Paul Gallen
2 points - Matt Prior
1 points - Lachlan Fitzgibbon
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (18)
Tries: Lachlan Fitzgibbon (2), Danny Levi
Conversions: Trent Hodkinson (3/3)
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (26)
Tries: Valentine Holmes, Chad Townsend, Jayden Brailey, Jesse Ramien
Conversions: James Maloney (4/4)
Penalty Goals: James Maloney (1/1)