Kalyn Ponga’s first career hat-trick helped Newcastle Knights defeat 12-man Cronulla Sharks 38-10.
The Knights are up to sixth in the table after a strong first half and Chad Townsend’s send off led them to a key victory over a Finals rival in the Sharks.
Cronulla opened the scoring after only five minutes through Ronaldo Mulitalo but the rest of the first half belonged to Newcastle.
They equalised through Starford To’a before Ponga stepped through the defence for a Newcastle lead.
Both To’a and Ponga scored their second tries in the first half to extend the Knights’ lead out to 22-4 at the break.
Things got worse for Cronulla when they were reduced to 12 men for the remainder of the game in the second half. Townsend was the player sent off after he hit Ponga with his shoulder after play had been called back.
But the Sharks were next to score. Connor Tracey showed and went through Newcastle’s defence. But Lachlan Fitzgibbon’s try with 13 minutes left restored Newcastle’s momentum. Then Ponga’s speed earned him a hat-trick.
Knights: Ponga, To’a, Tuala, Shibasaki, Hunt, Lino, Pearce, Klemmer, Mann, J Saifiti, Fitzgibbon, Guerra, Barnett; Interchanges: Crossland, Ese’ese, King, Jones
Tries: To’a 2, Ponga 3, Fitzgibbon, King; Goals: Lino 5
Sharks: Kennedy, Mulitalo, Dugan, Ramien, Goodwin, Trindall, Townsend, Hamlin-Uele, Brailey, Woods, Nikora, Graham, Sorensen; Interchanges: Rudolf, Tracey, Talakai, Hunt
Tries: Mulitalo, Tracey; Goals: Goodwin
Dismissal: Townsend (53) – dangerous tackle
On report: Rudolf (21) – dangerous tackle, Graham (21) – dangerous tackle
Full match reports of all this weekend’s NRL games will feature in Monday’s League Express