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Defence delivers victory for the Knights
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 18 v Newcastle Knights 22
at Toyota Park
Referee: Shayne Hayne
The Newcastle Knights have produced a strong defensive effort to deny a desperate Cronulla Sharks team at Toyota Park to open Round 21 of NRL action.
In an entertaining match played in front of a vocal crowd, the lead changed hands five times before a scoreless final twenty minutes saw the Knights emerge victorious after absorbing plenty of Sharks pressure.
The first half was played at a frantic pace as both teams looked to establish an early advantage. A penalty goal to Luke Covell was quickly countered by the opening try to Knights centre George Carmont, before the Sharks were able to hit back following a bizarre passage of play - an injured Jarrod Mullen raced away from a trainer with half-attached bandages waving around to effect a try-saving tackle on Darren Albert, but Paul Gallen was able to cross soon afterwards. Luke Covell missed the conversion, ending an impressive run of consecutive goals.
Mullen was later forced from the field with a sternum injury as the Sharks scored again, but the Knights were able to claim a late first-half try and trailled by only two points at the break.
The second half featured plenty of dropped ball from the Knights, and fortunately their defence was up to the task. Adam Woolnough scored against the run of play before the Sharks were finally able to take advantage of the Knights errors through a Reece Williams try. A piece of individual class from Andrew Johns in the 61st minute gave the Knights a 22-18 lead which was never relinquished.
Danny Buderus had an excellent game for the Knights, producing his customary flashes of brilliance to fire up his team. He was well supported by a strong forward effort and a sharp game out wide from centre Matt Gidley. As well as the Mullen injury, Todd Lowrie injured a hamstring late in the match to cause some concern for the Knights medical staff.
The Sharks never gave up, but couldn't find the magic to cross the line late in the match. Their back row of Bird, Thompson and Gallen produced eye-catching performances, and Nigel Vagana looked dangerous when switched to the fullback position - but they'll need more spark on attack to resurrect a season that now hangs in the balance.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: 18
Tries: Paul Gallen, Reece Williams, Lance Thompson
Goals: Luke Covell 3/4
Newcastle Knights: 22
Tries: George Carmont, Andrew Johns, Adam Woolnough, Brian Carney
Goals: Andrew Johns 3/4
By the Clock:
Good evening everyone! We're here at Toyota Park tonight for a clash between the Sharks and the Knights - two teams desperate to cling on to their positions in the Top 8.
Late changes for both teams: The Sharks have replaced the injured Richard Villasanti with Mutch Maiava. For the Knights, Woolnough and Reynoldson will start in place of Smith and Tanner.
KICK OFF: We're underway!
3 min: PENALTY GOAL Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
An Anthony Quinn fumble right on his own line sets up a good scoring chance for the Sharks. On the next set, Josh Perry is penalised for a strip in the tackle and Luke Covell steps up to open the scoring.
8 min: VIDEO REF - possible Knights try ...
8 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
An Andrew Johns bomb is fumbled by Darren Albert - the ball rolls over the Sharks goal-line, and George Carmont is on hand to claim the first try of the night. There was some doubt as to whether Albert had been taken out, and on the grounding for the try - but the green light flashes up.
13 min: Jarrod Mullen (Knights) has a nasty-looking cut above his eye - could be a stapler job.
14 min: The Sharks make a huge break up-field through Darren Albert, but Jarrod Mullen (who was 80 metres upfield having bandages applied) races away from the trainer to make a try-saving tackle.
15 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
The Sharks make the most of Albert's break to catch the Knights short out wide - Paul Gallen crashes through several attempted tackles to score.
Covell misses the conversion from a relatively easy position.
18 min: Some desperate Sharks defence denies the Knights as Brian Carney is dragged across the touchline while he was preparing to reach out for the try. A pretty fast-paced game is unfolding here.
21 min: VIDEO REF - possible Sharks try ...
21 min: NO TRY - Luke Covell is ruled to have knocked-on while contesting a bomb, denying Ben Pomeroy a try.
25 min: Luke Covell knocks-on again while trying to claim an Andrew Johns bomb - fortunately for him, the Knights chasers are ruled offside.
27 min: Andrew Johns shows amazing strength to push back Hutch Maiava as he tried to steamroll across the line. Sharks hard on attack here.
28 min: VIDEO REF - possible Sharks try ...
28 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Some beautiful lead-up work from Dykes, Kimmorley and (especially) Gallen opens up a nice gap for Lance Thompson to score.
31 min: Brett Kearney fumbles a bomb 10 metres out from his own line. The Knights have currently got both Steve Simpson and Jarrod Mullen off the field injured.
31 min: Matt Gidley knocks-on on the first tackle from the scrum - a let-off for the Sharks.
33 min: INJURY UPDATE - Simpson should be back, but Mullen probably won't be - possible sternum injury.
33 min: The Knights look dangerous as Johns combines with Milton Thaiday, but the Knights are penalised for an obstruction play.
36 min: The Knights force the Sharks into a goal-line drop out. The Sharks are having all sorts of problems contesting the high balls tonight.
37 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
A 55-metre drop out from Brett Kimmorley doesn't stop them! Clint Newton and George Carmont combine to make a break up the left-hand side, and from the next play the ball is swung to the other side of the field for Brian Carney to score.
Johns misses the conversion.
HALFTIME: Sharks 12 Knights 10
We've got an exciting game of footy unfolding here. The Sharks are looking slighty more impressive at this stage, but the Knights are giving the impression that they've got more fuel in the tank.
Possession: Sharks 52% Knights 48%
Completion: Sharks 15/18 Knights 13/19
Missed tackles: Sharks 7 Knights 15
Line breaks: Sharks 3 Knights 1
The second half is underway!
44 min: A couple of Knights errors have presented some good scoring opportunities for the Sharks, but the Knights defence is holding firm for now.
46 min: Anthony Quinn appears to have fumbled a Sharks bomb in his own in-goal, but Shayne Hayne rules a fair catch.
48 min: The Knights ball-handling is becoming atrocious this half. A knock-on from a scrum hands another great chance to the Sharks.
50 min: The Knights finally complete a set of six, and manage to force a goal-line drop out.
51 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Adam Woolnough crashes over after taking a good short pass from Danny Buderus close to the line.
55 min: VIDEO REF - possible Sharks try ...
55 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
This time, the Sharks are able to take advantage of a Knights fumble. Reece Williams scores a try after some good lead-up work from Nigel Vagana, who is involving himself a lot more in the attack.
Covell adds the extras as the Sharks reclaim the lead.
61 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
The Knights score again after forcing another repeat set. This time, the Sharks make the fatal mistake of standing back and watching Andrew Johns run with the ball - so he decides to run straight through and score next to the posts.
Johns converts his own try.
66 min: Excellent defence from the Knights here as they repell two consecutive Sharks attacking sets.
68 min: A bad error from referee Shayne Hayne here - Milton Thaiday is ruled to have knocked-on, but the ball clearly came off his knee. Fortunately the Knights defence denies the Sharks from taking any advantage.
73 min: Time is running out for the Sharks - they need to find some magic to keep their season on track.
74 min: The Knights have used all 12 interchanges, but Todd Lowrie looks to be in trouble with a hamstring injury.
78 min: A huge Adam Dykes bomb is knocked-on by the Sharks.
80 min: Steve Simpson and Andrew Johns combine in a great tackle on Greg Bird, forcing a fumble.
FULLTIME: Sharks 18 Knights 22
A strong defensive effort from the Knights has seen them edge out the Sharks in front of their vocal home crowd tonight.
Possession: Sharks 52% Knights 48%
Completion: Sharks 29/37 Knights 25/38
Missed tackles: Sharks 21 Knights 24
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Danny Buderus
2 - Matthew Gidley
1 - Greg Bird