An eventful affair at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle has seen the Newcastle Knights scrape by the Cronulla Sharks 14-8 to secure a win in Round 1 of the 2019 Telstra Premiership. A host of talking points arose postgame, following a dubious penalty try and a heated exchange centred around club skipper, Paul Gallen.
The first half saw a number of opportunities go begging for both sides. Former Cronulla winger, Edrick Lee, blew a golden try-scoring chance in the opening ten minutes, fumbling the ball just inches from the line, before fellow winger, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, came within a fingertip of a four-pointer himself, moments later. A multitude of right-edge attacking raids went astray in the opening half for Cronulla, with the likes of Josh Dugan and Sione Katoa looking dangerous against a new-look Newcastle defence. Errors and sloppiness, however, was the story of the first half, which saw the two sides enter the break at a nil-all stalemate. A Shaun Johnson penalty goal got the Sharks on the board in the 47th minute, which the Knights were able to counter just two minutes later through a penalty goal of their own, courtesy of Kalyn Ponga.
The game’s try-scoring drought eventually ended thanks to a barnstorming effort from Knights’ newcomer, Tim Glasby, in the 69th minute. A controversial penalty try call favouring Cronulla saw the game tied up again, just four minutes later. The play, which involved Edrick Lee pulling Sione Katoa, whilst in pursuit of a kicked ball, down from behind, was sent to the Bunker, where it was deemed that Katoa would have undoubtedly scored, had Lee not interfered. Following the penalty try, a penalty marched Cronulla into opposition territory before a wayward pass from local junior, Chad Townsend, found its way into the hands of Edrick Lee, who raced close to ninety metres downfield to seal the game for the home side. Any hope Cronulla had for a miracle ended when Paul Gallen put the ball down in the final sixty seconds, prompting a portion of the Knights’ forward pack to send a verbal tirade Gallen’s way.
In the postgame press conference, rookie coach, John Morris, credited the team’s “uncharacteristic” errors as the primary catalyst behind the loss, believing said errors “put too much pressure on [them]selves”.
Whilst the result didn’t go the way of Cronulla, there were plenty of positives to take out from the performance. Matt Moylan looked impressive in the number one jumper, running for close to 200 metres and breaking seven tackles. Young hooker, Jayden Brailey, was strong also, finishing the game having made 47 tackles without a miss in his 63 minutes. Debutant, Briton Nikora, did his best to replace representative second-rower, Wade Graham, running for 123 metres in his 14 hit-ups and making 40 tackles, in an 80-minute performance.
The Sharks will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing loss to Newcastle, when the Gold Coast Titans make the trip to the Shire on Saturday afternoon. The Titans, fresh off a disappointing result of their own at the hands of Canberra, will be eager for a victory and Cronulla will have their hands full handling the likes of Tyrone Peachey, Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow.
The Titans boast one of the competition’s most exciting forward packs with Origin representatives Wallace and Arrow joined by skipper, Ryan James, New Zealand international, Kevin Proctor, and offseason signing, Shannon Boyd. The forwards will be key in determining the outcome of this game and whichever pack can gain the upper hand will go a long way in getting a victory for their team.
With a host of big names set to do battle at Shark Park on Saturday at 3:00PM, fans should expect an exciting Round 2 affair.