Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
36 hours ago
EnergyAustralia Stadium was the venue for the Round 25 clash between the Newcastle Knights and the Cronulla Sharks. It was the final home game of the regular season for the Knights in what has been a rather successful year in the Jersey Flegg competition. The Knights were also out to exact revenge and turn around a 56-6 humiliation by the Sharks at Toyota Park just six weeks ago. The first try of the game was scored by the home side through centre Alex McCosker who continued his recent good form. Luke Walsh failed with his conversion attempt from out wide. The next ten minute passage was one where both sides began to throw the ball around and successfully complete their sets. The next try of the match was through some superb vision by halfback Walsh. He took the ball on the fifth tackle after making himself available down the blindside, noticing that the Sharks were struggling. As the defence converged on him, he hooked a kick back towards the posts, where his halves partner in crime and captain Scotty Dureau was chasing through the kick, got a fantastic bounce before diving over beside the posts. Walsh added the extras and the Knights led 10-0. This was instantly an improvement from the last time the sides met. The Knights were starting to look sharp and enthusiastic. The Sharks appeared to be sluggish and were half a step behind the Knights at this particular point in the match. The Sharks finally appeared to be getting into their groove in the match and halfback Ben Green got his side on the board when he finished off a 50 metre movement by the Sharks after some terrific lead up work. Bryson Goodwin, who six weeks ago finished with a handy personal amount of points, added his first conversion of the match to close the gap to four. Knights 10 Sharks 6 remained the score until just a minute before halftime, when Knights interchange hooker Nathan Berry ran out of dummy half and planted the ball on the line, constituting a try to the home side on the stroke of halftime. Walsh added the conversion from a wide angle just a few seconds before halftime. Knights 16 - 6 Sharks was the halftime score.
The Sharks took just 45 seconds into the second half to once again close the gap to just four points after Tony Caine finished off a 70 metre effort by the Sharks as they went through some paper thin Knights defence around the ruck. Goodwin converted from out wide and it was a simple case of game back on. This appeared to shock the Knights as from the kick-off the Sharks made some good metres from their set of six. The Knights then hit back a few minutes later to push themselves out to a comfort zone. Walsh drifted across the Sharks defence looking for some runners, which eventually came in the form of fullback Sam Wooden, who stepped and jinked his way across the Sharks line to score beside the posts. Walsh again added the extras to put the Knights out by ten again. This remained the score until into the final ten minutes of the match when the Sharks, after threatening the Knights line for some time, finally found a way through it. Dayne Weston was the try-scorer who scored just beside the posts and the Sharks found themselves behind by just six after Goodwin unbelievably, from just five metres to the left of the posts, hit the right hand upright. This set up a thrilling final seven minutes as the Knights hung on desperately until just into the final minute, when the Sharks through winger Dimitri Pelo scored out wide to set up his wing partner in Goodwin with a sideline conversion from the eastern touchline to at least get a draw for his side. By this time, the crowd had grown to around 14,000 and the young winger had to contend with a chorus of boos. He missed the conversion which was met with a roar of approval from the crowd. The clock continued to tick down and the Knights kicked off and had to hang on for just one tackle. Sharks five-eighth Reece Blayney put a kick downfield which went straight to Luke Walsh, who kicked the ball into the crowd and the Knights hung on to win in their final home game of the year 22-20 and stay in the top four of the competition.
For the Knights, all the forwards stood up to be counted, Larry Taufua had a strong game as did Hanan Laban. Next week the Knights travel to Oki Jubilee to take on the premiership favourites the Dragons in what shapes as a fantastic game.