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Sharks lose a heartbreaker in Newcastle

A Kayln Ponga try with less than three minutes left on the clock has broken the hearts of a gutsy Sharks side with the Knights escaping with a thrilling 26-22 victory. 

The Sharks had taken the lead after a brilliant finish in the north-eastern corner by Mawene HIroti, and when Chad Townsend kicked the sideline conversion it had appeared a backs to the wall victory was on the cards, only for the last minute Ponga heroics to decide the result. 

It was a shattering way to lose a game where the Sharks battled back from a half time deficit, had their noses in front, but couldn't finish their opponents off. 

First points went to Ponga who would have a huge influence on the match, the try coming on the back of a Blake Green 40-20, the Newcastle fullback splitting the Sharks right hand side defence. 

Ponga couldn't convert and the Knights had a 4-0 lead 16 minutes into the match. 

The next try also came after pressure on the Sharks line and again it was Ponga in the game, the young number one off-loading for back rower Mitch Barnett to touch down. 

The simple conversion was pushed wide, with Newcastle opening up a handy advantage at 8-0. 

The Sharks would reply, Toby Rudolf challenged a Chad Townsend bomb, Ponga couldn't collect the ball as it bounced loose and it was Jesse Ramien on the spot to gather and plant he football down under the uprights.

Townsend made no mistake with the kick at goal and the Knights led 8-6. 

After Will Kennedy had made a try saving tackle on Jacob Saifiti, the Knights would regain possession, make a break down the Sharks down their left, with Kurt Mann winning the race to a cross field kick to score his team’s third try of the evening. 

On this occasion Ponga was successful with his conversion and the Knights had extended their lead to 14-6, a score that would remain unchanged to the half time break. 

The Sharks began the second period strongly, pressuring the Knights line and were able to narrow the margin, Briton Nikora bursting through a Green tackle then reaching out to score. 

Townsend slotted the conversion to make it 14-12 just four minutes into the half, with the game from that point turning into something of an arm wrestle, neither team able to add to their score until Ponga was in the game again, on this occasion throwing a one-handed inside pass for Brodie Jones to cross. 

Ponga added the extras to make push his team out to an eight point lead at 20-12 however the Sharks kept coming and refused to fade away. 

With Matt Moylan injecting himself into the game the Sharks lifted and Will Kennedy, continuing his outstanding form, throwing the final pass for Connor Tracey to dive over in corner. 

Townsend pulled the kick just wide but it was game on again at 20-16 with still time left on the clock. 

Then came the Hiroti try, the winger on the end of a long cut-out from Townsend and the Sharks half silenced the crowd with his sideline conversion to put his team in front. 

When it appeared the Sharks had done enough, the Knights were gifted field position with a penalty, before the Ponga try, coming after a horrible Green kick was collected, passed to Tyson Frizell, who found his fullback in support. 

The Sharks had one final opportunity after Kennedy claimed the ball from the kick off, but it would be the Knights to hold on. 

Despite the loss, the Sharks had a number of outstanding contributors, Moylan handing in perhaps his best game of the season, Kennedy was again sharp at the back and the forwards more than matched their opposition in the middle of the field. 

The Sharks now have an eight-day turnaround before taking on the Bulldogs at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium next Saturday. 

KNIGHTS 26 (Kalyn Ponga 2, Mitchell Barnett, Kurt Mann, Brodie Jones tries; Ponga 2 goals) defeated SHARKS 22(Jesse Ramien, Briton Nikora, Connor Tracey, Mawene Hiroti tries; Chad Townsend 3 goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin. Crowd: 17,039.