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Five Key Points - Sharks v Knights

1 Val loves playing Newcastle
Three more tries on Sunday, adding to the nine he had scored in his previous five games in matches against Newcastle, equates to an impressive tally for Sharks winger Valentine Holmes.

Holmes seems to consistently find himself in the right place at the right time against the Knights, with yesterday's hat-trick coming on the back of a four-try effort in 2016.

Now with 11 tries for the Sharks this year, Holmes is again on track to better the club record of 19 tries in a season, a mark he holds jointly with club legend David Peachey.

If he is close to the record, and the Knights haven't figured out a way of keeping him off the try scoring list, Holmes might be looking forward to a round 24 match up with Newcastle while using it as his opportunity to become the most prolific single-season try scorer in Sharks history.

2 Sharks spine stiffening
Injury to key personnel and the quest to find the ideal combination saw the Sharks 'spine' take on a different look through the opening six-or-so rounds of the 2018 season.

Matt Moylan, Valentine Holmes and Josh Dugan all had some time at fullback, Trent Hopkinson came in and played six for three games and while Chad Townsend and the Jayden Brailey-James Segeyaro partnership has remained a constant, the continual changes made striking up the ideal mix something of a work in progress.

Now with some continuity to what coach Shane Flanagan believes to be his best 'spine', the outside backs and the Sharks attack in general, is starting to show the benefits.

Six Matt Moylan try assists against the Knights tell part of the story, with the Sharks playmaker producing his best performance in Sharks colours in the big win over the Knights.

His efforts were certainly commendable, but what is showed was just how dangerous the Sharks spine can potentially be with more games together. The Sharks spine is stiffening and that should make opposition teams somewhat nervous.

3 Many happy returns for Prior
No Andrew Fifita in the middle of the field meant somebody needed to take the reins in the forward pack and step up and who better to do so, on his 31st birthday, than the ever reliable Matt Prior.

Prior tackled himself to a standstill, carried the ball strongly, harassed the Newcastle kickers and had a game reminiscent the form the displayed n 2016, a yer in which he shared the Sharks player of the year award with fellow front rower Fifita.

In being named player's player and coaches award winner in the win over the Bulldogs the previous week, indicated the respect he has within the Sharks ranks and he continued that form at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday, playing 55-plus minutes straight before earning a rest.
With senior teammates Wade Graham and Paul Gallen back on deck, the Sharks forwards again had that tough edge to them and when adding a fit and firing Fifita,

Many happy returns to Matt on his birthday and we look forward to many more performances like the one he handed in at McDonald Jones Stadium

4 Under the radar 

The win over the Knights, and the handy for-and-against boost, saw the Sharks climb into the top four for the first time in the 2018 season.

With no headlines, without anybody talking about the Sharks or rating them amongst the leading teams, Shane Flanagan's squad have worked their way into a strong position quietly and efficiently.

Following a number of grinding wins, the Sharks found some attacking mojo in crossing for nine tries on Sunday afternoon and despite the Knights being below par defensively, it was still the Cronulla's most impressive 80-minutes with ball-in-hand.

Should they get a win against Souths and move even closer to the competition lead, there will no doubt be outside noise will begin as the media starts to talk up there chances.

So far they are under it, but a couple more wins over the coming weeks and the Sharks will be very much on the radar.

5 Origin snub can be a Sharks motivator
With just Valentine Holmes selected to play in Origin game one, the Sharks will face the Rabbitohs on Friday night with close to a full strength side.

Grand Final winning winger Sosaia Feki will come into the side for Holmes, with Andrew Fifita, overlooked by NSW selectors after declaring his intention to play for Tonga on the same weekend as Origin two, likely to return.

With Souths having a handful of players named for the opening Origin encounter, the Sharks will face the Rabbitohs at an opportune time.

Coach Shane Flanagan however will be stressing the importance of worrying who is in the Souths team, rather than who isn't.

Wade Graham, Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan may have been bypassed by Brad Fittler and his selection panel for varying reasons, injury interrupting the opening half of the season for all three, but they have been successful in the representative arena in the past and the trio are finding form at a good time for the Sharks.

It's unlikely they will say so publicly, but the Origin snub could be just the motivator to take the three, and their Sharks teammates, to another level over the coming weeks.


Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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