NRL MATCH REPORT | Sharks win a thriller
In a game of fluctuating fortunes, one in which youngster Jack Bird was outstanding and a sprinkling of Ben Barba brilliance helped to turn the tide, the Sharks have scored a thrilling 30-28 victory over the Newcastle Knights.
The Sharks trailed by 10 points early in the second half and a victory if not impossible, seemed a difficult assignment.
The Cronulla side however refused to quit, with three tries in quick succession midway through the second 40 putting then in front before they would manage to hold on for the win.
It was an important victory for the Sharks, a win which has them knocking on the door of the top eight after 15 rounds of the 2015 competition.
The match began with the Knights opening up a 4-0 lead courtesy of two penalty goals but it was the Sharks who would be first across the stripe, a well-worked backline move putting Valentine Holmes into space with the young winger going over untouched.
Michael Gordon was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt from wide out and the teams were locked up at 4-points all.
The Sharks would take their first lead of the afternoon when Gordon slotted a penalty goal following a high shot on prop Matt Prior but the Knights retook the lead through a long-range effort set up by centre Dane Gagai and finished off by fullback Jake Mamo.
The Gidley conversion made it 10-6 to the home team and when Beau Scott scored after some ordinary Sharks defense it appeared the Knights would take a 16-6 lead to half time.
The Sharks however had other ideas and when a clever inside pass from Luke Lewis put Jack Bird into a gap the margin had been narrowed and after Gordon added the extras the Knights would lead 16-12 at the break.
The second half started poorly for the Sharks when a combination of great athleticism and luck saw the Knights score, with Mamo tapping the ball back into the in-goal for Carlos Tuimavave to touch down.
Gidley converted and the Sharks trailed 22-12 just five minutes into the second period.
The Sharks narrowed the gap shortly after and it came through some brilliant attacking play.
After the ball had been spread across the backline Gerard Beale put Luke Lewis on a long run down the right hand touchline, before an exchange of passes saw the ball in Barba’s hands, with Lewis again handling and getting the ball down adjacent to the uprights.
Gordon was on target with the kick at goal to make it 22-18 with plenty of time left on the clock.
Again the Sharks went on the attack and again that man Barba, injected into the game only a few minutes prior, who was in the man of the moment.
With a well-worked move Wade Graham slipped an inside pass to Barba and showing electric speed the Sharks utility streaked through the gap, left the fullback standing with a left foot step and touched down for the Sharks fourth try of the afternoon.
Gordon added the extras and the Sharks had recaptured the lead at 24-22 in front.
They would pad that lead when Bird his second, this time from a brilliant individual effort as the five eighth chip kicked and won the race to the football before grounding it under the posts.
The extra two points made it 30-22 and while their was plenty of time left on the clock the Sharks had all the momentum.
For the most part their defense held firm and while a Kade Snowden try with three minutes remaining made it interesting, the Sharks would close out the game and claim the valuable two competition points.
The Sharks had a number of outstanding performers on the day, none better than Bird, while the injection of Barba also helped shift the momentum when they needed it most.
Holmes and Sosaia Feki were also dangerous on the flanks and the experience of Michael Ennis and Lewis was invaluable late in the contest.
The Sharks now move to 16 competition points and certainly within striking distance of the top eight.
The next assignment for the Cronulla side is a match against the red-hot Cowboys outfit who are currently riding an 11-game winning streak.
That match is at 1-300-SMILES Stadium in Townsville next Saturday afternoon, with the kick-off scheduled for 5.30pm.
Jack Bird 2, Valentine Holmes, Ben Barba, Luke Lewis tries, Michael Gordon 5 goals