Cronulla stand-off James Maloney secured a 19-18 victory for the Cronulla Sharks against Newcastle Knights in Sydney today as the reigning Premiers narrowly avoided a shock defeat to the team that finished at the bottom of the ladder in 2016.
The Sharks had led by 12 points lead with eleven minutes to go, but the Knights came roaring back with Brendan Elliot and Jacob Gagan touching down to level the scores with seven minutes remaining.
Elliot dashed 90 metres to score, before Gagan pounced on a Valentine Holmes error in-goal.
A Knights’ comeback had looked unlikely earlier in the game after the Sharks opened the scoring on six minutes with Gerard Beale touching down a grubber kick from Chad Townsend.
The Knights levelled the scores five minutes later, however, when former Huddersfield Giants star Joe Wardle touched down in his second NRL game. Wardle beat Holmes to the ball to touch down a grubber by Brock Lamb.
Maloney’s penalty gave the Sharks a two-point lead, before Holmes gave a great pass for Sosaia Feki to beat Ken Sio to give the Sharks a 14-6 lead at the break.
The Sharks extended their lead with a Bird and Holmes combining for the fullback to score a spectacular try in the corner, but the Knights then stunned them with those two late tries, before Maloney stepped up to secure the points for the Sharks.
Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Jack Bird, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Gerard Beale, 6 James Maloney, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen (c); Subs: 14 Jayson Bukuya, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jeremy Latimore, 17 James Segeyaro.
Knights: 1 Brendan Elliot, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Dane Gagai, 4 Peter Mata’utia, 20 Jacob Gagan, 6 Brock Lamb, 7 Trent Hodkinson (c), 15 Jack Stockwell, 12 Jamie Buhrer, 10 Josh Starling, 11 Sione Mata’utia, 19 Joe Wardle, 13 Mitchell Barnett; Subs: 8 Daniel Saifiti, 9 Daniel Levi, 16 Sam Stone, 21 Anthony Tupou,
Read Monday’s League Express for full coverage of all the weekend’s NRL games.