In a fiery encounter, which featured a send off, a handful of players placed on report and plenty of niggle and aggression from both teams, the Sharks have fallen to the Newcastle Knights in a crucial clash between two teams fighting for places in the top eight.
On a disappointing night for the Sharks for a number of reasons, any chance of a revival was immediately put to bed when referee Ben Cummins sent half back Chad Townsend from the field for an incident in the 52nd minute of the match, with Newcastle building on a sizeable half time lead to win 38-10.
Townsend was marched for a hit on Knights fullback Kayln Ponga, the referee believing the tackle was high when replays may have indicated otherwise.
After a less than stellar first half, with the Sharks trailing 22-4 at the break, the Townsend send off turned the game on its head and while there was a brief fightback of sorts, the Newcastle team playing with 13 men against 12, would prove far too good.
The Sharks had an early let off when David Klemmer failed to ground a Mason Lino grubber kick in just the second minute of the match and they would take advantage, after a Kayln Ponga error at the other end gifted them field position it was Ronaldo Mulitalo taking the last pass from Will Kennedy to score.
Young halfback Braydon Trindall was unable to add the extras however the Sharks had a 4-0 lead just six minutes into the contest.
The Knights would reply almost immediately, a six again call, then a penalty putting the home team on the attack, with Starford To’a exploiting an overlap to cross wide out.
Ponga couldn't convert and it was locked up at 4-all.
Now with their tails up the Knights went back on the attack and would take their first lead of the night, Ponga beating three defenders on a 20-metre run to the line.
From close range his kick hit the upright and bounced away but the Newcastle side still had their first lead at 8-4.
Struggling to keep pace with their opposition the Knights moved back into an attacking zone and made the Sharks pay for another first half error, To’a touching down once again, the Cronulla right hand side defence unable to clean up a Lino kick.
Taking over the goal kicking duties Lino slotted his first conversion attempt and the Knights had skipped out to a 14-4 advantage.
A penalty goal after Wade Graham and Toby Rudolf were penalised for a lifting tackle pushed the lead out to 16-6, then it was Ponga once more, the fullback brushing past some ordinary Sharks defence to score his second.
Lino was successful with the kick and it was 22-6 at the break.
After an ordinary first 40 the Sharks were attempting to rally, only for the game to turn on his head when Townsend received his marching orders, leaving the Cronulla side a man short for more than 30 minutes of the game.
Showing plenty of character in the next period of the contest the Sharks rolled up their sleeves battled away and were the next to score, Connor Tracey, on the field for Trindall, brushing aside the defence to score his teams second.
With Trindall and Townsend off the field, Byson Goodwin took the kicking tee and was on target with the conversion attempt to give he Sharks some hope at 22-10 behind with still 25 minutes remaining.
That would be as close as the Sharks would get, fatigue setting in after playing with a man short for more than a quarter of the match and the Knights managed three tries late in pushing out the final scoreline.
It was a disappointing night on a number of counts for the Sharks, with Graham bruised and battered, leaving the field seven mutes before time, and a number of players facing a nervous wait for the match review analysis, with Graham and Rudolf put on report in the first half, Braden Hamlin-Uele in the second and Townsend sent from the field.
While hard to find too many positives from the game, the effort of Rudolf, the unfortunate tackle in the first half notwithstanding, was outstanding, Jesse Ramien had limited opportunities against his former club but tried hard, with Tracey providing some spark when injected into the game in the second half.
The Sharks now have a long turnaround to their next match which will be against the New Zealand Warriors at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday.
6 mins - Mulitalo try - Sharks 4-0
12 mins - To’a try - 4-all
15 mins - Ponga try - Knights 8-4
18 mins - To’a try, Lino goal - Knights 14-4
22 mins - Lino goal - Knights 16-4
35 mins - Ponga try, Lino goal - Knights 22-4
56 mins - Tracey try, Goodwin goal - 22-10
68 mins - Fitzgibbon try - Knights 26-10
71 mins - Ponga try, Lino goal - Knights 32-10
80 mins - King try, Lino goal - Knights 38-10
Ronaldo Mulitalo, Connor Tracey tries, Bryson Goodwin goal
Kayln Ponga 3, Starford To’a 2, Josh King, Lachlan Fitzgibbon tries, Mason Lino 5 goals