Sharks send Lewis out a winner

A top four finish is firmly within reach of the Cronulla Sharks after a 38-12 victory against the Newcastle Knights at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

Cronulla scrapped hard in the first half before careering away in the second to guarantee retiring champion Luke Lewis waved farewell to Shark Park as a winner.

The match also saw history rewritten – star fullback Valentine Holmes snared his 20th four-pointer of 2018 to break the Sharks record for most tries in a season.

Meanwhile, young half Kyle Flanagan overcame a nervy start to produce some nice touches on his NRL debut.

The result currently elevates the Sutherland Shire team to fourth position; however, the St George Illawarra Dragons can reclaim the spot if they salute by 10 points or more later this afternoon.

Holmes threatened early for the Sharks, almost creating a try when he tore up the middle in the ninth minute.

Though he couldn't link with a teammate to touch down, a penalty allowed Holmes to kick the opening two points instead.

Cronulla immediately handed Newcastle a chance to attack after making consecutive errors coming out of their own end. Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce looked set to score until Edrick Lee halted him with a bone-crunching tackle.

The nature of the contest turned messy as the sides began to one-up each other with mistakes.

Lewis fell inches short from marking his goodbye party with a try in the 22nd minute, but the deadlock remained.

However, the Sharks finally broke through minutes later.

Following a half bust and skilful offload from Flanagan, playmaker Chad Townsend lofted a pass for centre Josh Dugan to cross down the right edge.

In trying to defend the play, Knights back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon sustained a head injury and was helped from the field.

Once Fitzgibbon made his way to the sideline, Holmes slotted the conversion to push Cronulla's lead to 8-0.

The Sharks defended stoutly as Newcastle set up camp on their line, but there was nothing they could do as Knights fullback Nick Meaney fortuitously scooped up a kick deflection and dived over.

Ken Sio converted, reducing the score to 8-6.

In the shadows of half-time, the visitors were left a man short following the sin binning of Aiden Guerra for repeated infringements.

With seconds remaining until the break, a raid down the right side ended in Townsend launching another perfect high pass for departing winger Lee to notch a Sharks try.

Holmes' kick from the touchline never looked like missing as Cronulla led 14-6 after the opening 40 minutes – despite a completion rate of only 64 percent.

The Knights were able to safely defend the remaining period of Guerra's time off the park, with the experienced forward returning in the 47th minute.

But almost as soon as he returned, the Sharks scored again.

A swift backline movement on the left eventually gave Sosaia Feki a narrow corridor to work in. He used every centimetre expertly to ground the ball in spectacular fashion.

Though Holmes missed the goal, the Sharks were ahead by two converted tries.

The difference was reduced to six when Knights prop Daniel Saifiti went in all too easily under the posts on the back of a Josh King offload. Sio kicked the extras.

However, Cronulla soon surged further ahead again.

After coming so close against the Cowboys last round, Holmes earned his place in Sharks try-scoring folklore by breaking clear down the centre and burning all the chasers.

The No.1 converted for a 24-12 margin.

A crusher tackle on Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita handed the Sharks a penalty and Holmes opted to add another two points.

Lee collected the scraps from a cross-field bomb to record his double in the 73rd minute.

To cap the win, Townsend scored a miraculous try following a brilliant inside kick from Feki, with Lee taking over the goal kicking duties and adding the extra two points in his final game at home for the Sharks.