Magic Moylan a nightmare for Knights
IT wasn't the prettiest football at times but the Cronulla Sharks finished with an emphatic nine-try romp over the Knights to extend their winning run to six.
A big second half from the visiting team was marked by a return to form of Matt Moylan who Knights players will have nightmares about after he finished with an incredible six try assists having notched just five for the season before Sunday.
He came to life in the second half especially, recording four of his assists as he tormented Newcastle at the line and helped extend their losing run to four.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan declared it Moylan's "best game of the year" after injury in the early rounds disrupted his start at the club.
Moylan said he'd been building to the performance and that the Sharks team made it easier.
"It's taken me a while to find my feet but over the last few weeks I've slowly improved and found a bit of consistency and that comes with playing regular footy," Moylan said.
"The combination building with Chaddy and our hookers, and Duges and Val.
"The way we were able to get the ball, we were playing on the front foot a lot of the time.
"There's some players around that are making us look good as halves as well. The way our outside backs are finishing off tries has been really good for us and making our job easier."
The five-eighth has hit form at an opportune time with the representative period here.
Though out of the frame for Origin I, continued form like he produced against Newcastle could have him in contention should injury hit the Blues.
Moylan said his focus was on the Sharks for now knowing he'd missed his shot at Game One.
"It's a confidence booster, but that ship's probably sailed at the moment, there's a lot of people getting tossed up for that but I'm not worried about that, I'm worried about playing footy for Cronulla," he said.
"Hopefully I can build off the back of this and keep improving."
Newcastle would have felt a glimmer of hope with the score at 22-6 at the break but Moylan quickly extinguished when he played a part in three tries within 11 minutes to start the second half.
Edrick Lee was put through for the first in the 44th minute after a Moylan run-around on Wade Graham created the extra man. The Sharks No. 6 put Luke Lewis through four minutes later and then put the kick across to Valentine Holmes in the 51st minute to take the lead to 38-6.
A controversial put down may have made headlines in another game, but it was inconsequential this time.
The Sharks added two more tries - including Holmes getting a hat-trick with 10 left on the clock - to fall just short of the half century in front of a crowd of 20,913.
It was far from a polished first 40 from Cronulla who kept the door ajar for Newcastle to come into the game with some dropped ball and silly errors. Even still, they crossed the stripe four times.
A raft of points and ruthless return after half-time was most pleasing for Flanagan.
"I felt we'd done enough in that (first) half to go back out in the second half and start really strong and that would put them to bed and we did that," Flanagan said.
"I don't think they touched ball in the second half for the first 10 minutes so that was a good start for us.
"This competition is so hard at the moment. You get big blocks of possession things can turn around quickly and 22-6 at halftime; they score a try, 22-12, they start looking they can come back in so it was a really important block that first 10 minutes of the second half."
The big win moves the Sharks into the top four improving their points differential to go above the Warriors and while the loss won't drop the Knights past 11th spot, the gap is starting to widen between them and the finals positions.
They'll also have a nervous wait on whether centre Nathan Ross will be available next week after he was put on report for tripping.
CRONULLA 48 (V Holmes 3 J Ramien 2 J Brailey J Dugan E Lee L Lewis tries C Townsend 6 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 10 (L Fitzgibbon S Mata'utia tries K Sio goal) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Referee: Gavin Reynolds, Jon Stone. Crowd: 20,913