Newcastle Knights 30 (Leilua 3, Rochow, Boyd, Roberts tries; Roberts 3 goals)
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 0
An inspired Newcastle Knights outfit has ridden a wave of emotion to a crushing 30-nil defeat of a hapless Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, in front of 18,196 fans at Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Playing for Alex McKinnon, who broke his back in their previous fixture against the Melbourne Storm, the Newcastle side was simply unstoppable in the first half, running in five tries, including a hat trick to centre Joseph Leilua.
Talking to TripleM after the game, Knights Forward Willie Mason said it has been the worst week in his footy career.
“If I didn’t put my hand up today I would’ve been very disappointed in myself,” he said.
All the Knights players put their hands high in a dominant display.
The Sharks, who would have hoped the return of Andrew Fifita would add some muscle up front, dodged an early bullet when Robbie Rochow spilt the ball over the try line, but it only delayed the proceedings slightly, with Leilua crossing in the eighth minute of the game from a Darius Boyd pass.
Rochow then made amends for his earlier mistake when a lovely short ball from Tyrone Roberts gave the second rower some space, and he brushed off Michael Gordon to score under the posts to give the Knights a 10-0 lead after just 13 minutes.
The try could prove to be more costly for the Sharks, with hard hitting prop Sam Tagatese placed on report for a late and high tackle on Roberts following his pass.
The hit didn’t slow the Knights, Leilua pushing past Sharks centre Blake Ayshford in the 15th minute of the game, and taking Todd Carney over the line with him in the 31st Minute.
The Knights weren’t finished and Darius Boyd, scored after a quick shift from the Knights from a scrum near the sharks defensive line to give the Knights a lopsided 26-nil half time lead.
The Sharks showed a greater resolve in the second half and the emotional energy of the first seemed to drain the knights.
The Sharks had a number of opportunities to score in the second half, the closest in the 53rd minute of the game, when Carney sliced through a hole, before a desperate tackle from Roberts saw the Sharks five eighth drop the ball near the line with interchange forward Tinirau Arona unmarked on the inside.
The Knights repelled everything the Sharks threw at them and increased their lead with some solid defence that saw Wade Graham bundled over the sideline before Roberts was allowed to run across field, straighten through a gap, and sprint to the corner to score. The 30-0 full time score reflected the Knight’s dominance on an emotional day for the club.