by Nathan Beuman
The Cronulla Sharks have been handed their first away loss of the season, going down 23-16 to the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium.
It was always going to be a tough afternoon for the defending Premiers, taking on a Newcastle outfit peppered with experienced first graders Chris Houston, Matt Hilder and Travis Waddell.
Things didn’t start well for Cronulla, when a Danny Kerr bomb rattled off the left hand upright on the opening set of the game, bouncing back into the waiting arms of the kicker, before he weaved past a Sharks defender to score, giving the Knights an early 6-0 lead following the Josh Mantellato conversion.
Four minutes later, Newcastle were in again, when a flick pass from Honeti Tuha found an outstretched Mantellato out on the right hand edge, who managed to ground it just before being taken into touch. From out wide, Mantellato was unable to convert his own try, giving the home side a 10-0 lead after only eight minutes.
“We keep putting ourselves in that position” said Sharks coach Tony Herman of his side’s slow start, having conceded first points for the fourth consecutive week.
“Too many errors and not respecting the football. Once you put yourself under that sort of pressure, teams are going to score against you”.
Cronulla hit back in the 22nd minute, when a magic inside ball from Penani Manumalealii found Kurt Mann, who scurried away to score his second try of the season. The Sharks trailed 10-4 after Mann was unable to convert his own try.
Just as the Sharks looked to be getting themselves back in the game, a Cronulla error gave Newcastle great field position, before a cutout pass from Kerr put Chris Houston, into a wide open gap to extend the lead out to two converted tries following the successful conversion.
The Sharks managed to capitalise on a Newcastle error on the stroke of half time, David Fifita somehow managing to pop a ball up to Manumalealii, who crossed just to the left of the upright. Mann kicked the easy conversion, cutting Newcastle’s lead to just 16-10 heading into the break.
Despite some strong defence to start the second half, it was Newcastle to score first, when an offload from Zane Tetevano found a waiting Tuha just adjacent to the uprights. Mantellato kicked the easy conversion to make it 22-10 after 55 minutes.
The Sharks continued to look dangerous down the right hand edge, almost crossing through Josh Portlock, but some strong goal line defence from the Novocastrians was too much to overcome.
A field goal from 35 metres out by Hilder all but secured the two points for the Knights, giving them a 23-10 lead with only eleven minutes remaining.
Cronulla managed to bag themselves a consolation try in the final minute of play when Fifita crashed his way over, before Mann kicking the conversion, but it wasnt enough for the Sharks with the Newcastle Knights claiming a 23-16 victory.
The Cronulla Sharks return to Remondis Stadium next Saturday afternoon when they take on a New Zealand Warriors side still searching for their first victory of the season. That game is scheduled to kick off at 12:40pm.
Newcastle 23 (Danny Kerr, Josh Mantellato, Chris Houston, Honeti Tuha tries; Josh Mantellato 3 goals; field goal Matt Hilder) d. Cronulla 22 (Kurt Mann, Penani Manumalealii, David Fifita; Kurt Mann 2 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Referee: Liam Nicholls. Touch Judges: Nathan Smith, Stephen Ellison. Penalties 8-2 Cronulla. Half-time: Newcastle 16-10. Goal kickers: Josh Mantellato (Newcastle) 3 from 4, Kurt Mann (Cronulla) 2 from 3.
Cronulla Sharks Team List
1 Kurt Mann
2 Travis Robinson
3 Justin O’Neill
4 Jacob Gagan
5 Josh Portlock
6 Pat Politoni
7 Penai Manumalealii
8 Tim Robinson
9 Michael Lichaa
10 Dayne Weston
11 Junior Moors
18 Tupou Sopoaga
13 Slade Griffin ©
12 Junior Roqica
14 Scott Sorensen
15 Michael Morris
16 David Fifita