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3 days ago
Newcastle Knights halfback Andrew Johns made a successful return from a knee injury at Gosford Stadium.
Johns took the field in the 22nd minute of the Knights' trial against Cronulla at Gosford Stadium - 336 days after tearing knee ligaments at Parramatta Stadium, an injury which prematurely ended his 2004.
It wasn't a vintage performance as the Sharks won 32-28.
But the good news was the Newcastle legend played 57 minutes and survived without re-injuring his knee and he performed better as the game went on. Just what the club needed after a week dominated by negative headlines surrounding weekend events in Bathurst.
The bad news for Knights fans was the scoreline.
Cronulla half Brett Kimmorley - John's long-time adversary for the NSW and Australian No.7 jersey - eclipsed his Knights counterpart with a classy two-try performance.
Kimmorley, the incumbent Australian No.7, could have had three with a touch of luck.
Sharks winger David Simmons tip-toed his way down the sideline and gave Kimmorley a clear run to the line in the 52nd minute.
But Simmons had put his foot into touch and play was brought back.
Johns, the former NSW and Australian skipper, entered the fray in the 23nd minute with his side leading 6-4.
He looked tentative and proppy early on, happy to shuffle the ball on to teammates and take care of the kicking responsibilities.
Cronulla certainly didn't seem phased by his arrival as they took a 16-6 lead into the break.
Kimmorley opened the scoring in the eighth minute before Phil Bailey stepped around Johns 20 minutes later to give his side a 10-6 lead.
Luke Covell made it 16-6 on halftime when he swooped on a Matthew Gidley mistake.
The Knights got a lot better in the second half - but they left it too late.
Kimmorley got his second in the 42nd minute and Simmons crossed five minutes later, picking up an errant Johns pass and racing 60 metres to make the Sharks lead 26-6.
Steve Witt managed to stem the flow for the Knights in the 55th minute but the Sharks hit back through Adam Dykes with 12 minutes remaining.
Johns then threw a cut-out pass in the lead-up to Craig Hall's try and a short ball to put Steve Simpson in the clear, Matthew Gidley backing up to narrow the gap to 10 points with five minutes remaining.
Mark Hughes set up a thrilling finish, crossing in the 78th minute to reduce the gap to four points
TRIAL MATCH RESULT
SHARKS 32 Kimmorley 2, Dykes, Simmons, Covell, Bailey tries, Covell 4 goals Defeated NEWCASTLE 28 at Express Advocate Stadium in Gosford Crowd 10,800