Holmes makes history as Sharks surge
CRONULLA have put a highly emotional week behind them with a scrappy 38-12 NRL win over Newcastle to keep their top four hopes alive.
The Sharks paid tribute to former back-rower Lance Thompson, who died on Thursday, with the club retiring his No.12 jersey for the day and Wade Graham wearing No.23.
Prop Andrew Fifita looked like a man on a mission to make a statement, creating havoc with every touch of the football after attracting a raft of criticism during the week.
He was twice hauled before club officials in the build-up after his on-field spray directed at the coachâ€™s box last week, and his expletive-laden comments on a podcast directed at a journalist.
Fifita charged 188 metres from 20 carries and made 20 tackles. His influence was all over Edrick Leeâ€™s try to make it 14-6 at halftime when he got the Knights back peddling.
The game also marked the debut of Kyle Flanagan, the son of coach Shane Flanagan, who looked promising in his first game but left most of the playmaking duties to Chad Townsend.
The game was a scrappy affair with the Knights never giving themselves a chance after giving away 12 penalties.
Both side were also error-riddled, committing 13 mistakes apiece. With Matt Moylan (leg) missing, Townsend stepped up to the plate, setting up three tries before scoring one himself in the 77th minute.
With five-eighth Kalyn Ponga (ankle) already out, the Knights were struck a blow when Connor Watson went off in the 49th minute.
However, they remained in the contest after Daniel Saifiti went over untouched under the posts to make it 18-12.
Just when the Knights looked like they were still in it, Valentine Holmes cut them up through the middle for a scintillating individual try. In the process he became the first Shark ever to cross for 20 tries in a season- surpassing the mark he previously jointly held with David Peachey. Holmes was brilliant, making a game-high 215 metres as he continued his growth in the No.1 jersey.
The result also ensured grand final hero Luke Lewis went out a winner in his final game at Shark Park.
CRONULLA 38 (E Lee 2 J Dugan S Feki V Holmes C Townsend tries V Holmes 6 E Lee goals) bt NEWCASTLE 12 (N Meaney D Saifiti tries K Sio 2 goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Referee: Jon Stone, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski