In a match that went right down to the final siren, Cronulla Sharks have maintained their grasp on second position running out 16-13 winners over a competitive Knights outfit.
The game was evenly balanced at half-time, with the Knights holding a one point lead following a field goal to Jarrod Mullen. Neither side could cross for a try in the second half with the decisive scores coming by the boot of Luke Covell, who slotted over two penalty goals to give the Sharks their narrow advantage.
Prior to the game, Newcastle lost captain Steve Simpson and centre Adam McDougall from their named side, and started hooker Scott Dureau from the bench. Already missing several established players, the Knights might have been expected to struggle against a higher placed Sharks side out to redeem themselves after their record loss to Manly the week before.
The Sharks crossed first through good passing from Brett Kimmorley and Fraser Anderson for David Simmons finding a hole on the right. But the Knights hit back shortly after, with backrower Zeb Taia following through on a Jarrod Mullen short kick near the posts.
Cronulla secured the lead again with second rower Fraser Anderson snaring a Kimmorley kick and managing to muscle it down for a try. Newcastle again hit back almost straight away, with debutant Aku Uate scoring after Junior Sau took a high Mullen kick and did some good work to pop it out the back.
With the scores locked up, Kurt Gidley took the opportunity for a field goal before half time, giving the Knights a 13-12 lead. It was the right decision at the time in a game where the creative play and kicking games saw the ball flow from end-to-end, but busting the defences open was proving a problem for both teams.
The second half was always going to favour the team who made the least mistakes, committed the least turnovers and gave away the least penalties. Both teams showed attacking promise, but the points just didn't come as they did in the first half.
In the end the difference and the result came down to Newcastle conceding some penalties within kicking range for Cronulla's Luke Covell. The penalty awarded to Brett Seymour in the 57th minute will be debated, he looked to force the referee into a decision regarding interference while attempting to play the ball.
The next 20 minutes were a real battle of attrition with neither side really taking the advantage. A few mistakes crept into the game from both sides meaning that they didn't capitalise on the attacking positions they all too often achieved. A final penalty on the advice of the video referee to the Sharks after they'd made a break down the middle in the 78th minute meant the game was as good as over, and the Sharks then played for safety knowing they had ground out another win.
Good efforts for the Knights from Jarrod Mullen before he was injured in the final 20 minutes. Gidley was useful as always especially in the first half, and debutant Uate looks like he'll step up to this level easily in the future. Most impressive was Scott Dureau who provided a good foil to Gidley in terms of attacking options once he took the field.
For the Sharks, Kimmorley and Seymour were involved in all the last tackle options, but with neither stamping complete authority on the game. Kearney made useful contributions from the back, but back rower Fraser Anderson was a stand out with good involvement, his share of hit ups and a useful pass for vital try assists.
Sharks fans will now watch the rest of this rounds results with interest to see if their team can have second place to themselves. Meanwhile Knights fans find themselves in the same position as their Parramatta counterparts, three points behind eighth placed Penrith and still hoping for some finals footy.
Match Details Cronulla Sharks 16 def Newcastle Knights 13 Round 19 - Full Time :: July 19th, 2008 7:30pm Venue: Toyota Stadium Referee: Tony Archer Touch Judges*: Phil Haines, Paul Holland Video Referee: Paul Simpkins Half time: Sharks 13-12 Crowd: 10,112 *NB: One touch judge substituted following pre-match injury.
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Fraser Anderson (Sharks) 2 Points: Scott Dureau (Knights) 1 Point: Brett Kearney (Sharks)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good Evening and welcome to Toyota Stadium for the leagueunlimited.com live coverage of tonight's match between the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and the Newcastle Knights.
It's fifteen minutes before game time, and there's plenty to play for in this match. Cronulla need the two points to ensure they stay equal second on the table as the weekend results unfold, and a win for Newcastle will keep them hot on the heels of the eighth placed Panthers. Both teams are capable of turning it on if they are on their game, so hopefully we'll see a tough contest and a good display of footy.
There were some last changes reported today for the Knights - centre Adam MacDougall is out replaced by Marvin Karawana, and captain Steve Simpson is out with Chris Houston expected to be promoted to the starting team. There was a bit of talk this week about a possible return for Greg Bird, but this has been ridiculed in the press by Sharks officials.
The teams will line up like this:
SHARKS: 1. Brett Kearney 2. Misi Taulapapa 3. Ben Pomeroy 4. David Simmons 5. Luke Covell 6. Brett Seymour 7. Brett Kimmorley 8. Ben Ross 9. Isaac De Gois 10. Luke Douglas 11. Grant Millington 12. Fraser Anderson 13. Paul Gallen Interchange: 14. Danny Nutley 15. Kade Snowden 16. Adam Peek 18. Terrence Seuseu
KNIGHTS: 1. Kurt Gidley 2. James McManus 3. Junior Sau 20. Aku Uate 5. Cooper Vuna 6. Chris Bailey 7. Jarrod Mullen 8. Daniel Tolar 14. Chris Houston 10. Matthew White 15. Cameron Ciraldo 12. Cory Paterson 13. Zeb Taia Interchange: 9. Scott Dureau 16. Richard Fa Like