By Jamie Anderson at Hunter Stadium
The Newcastle Knights continued their late season charge towards a top four spot with a comprehensive 56-12 win over the Cronulla Sharks last Saturday.
As a result the Knights leapfrogged both the Sharks and the Warriors, who lost their round 22 clash against the Tigers, into sixth spot on the ladder.
It was a match that the men in red and blue dominated from the opening whistle, thanks largely to a man of the match performance by the competitions most prolific point scorer in recent times, Josh Mantellato.
The Knights were up 12-0 in the blink of an eye thanks to tries to Brayden Wiliame and Tyler Randell, and then it appeared as if they would extend that lead in the 10th minute when the Knights had all of the numbers attacking the Sharks line, only for the ball to hit the deck and be picked up by Travis Robinson who sprinted 80 metres to get the Sharks on the board.
This was to be as close as the team from the shire would get however as the Knights put the foot to the floor so to speak.
Further first half tries to James Elias, Nathan Ross and Josh Mantellato saw the home side take a commanding 26-6 lead into the sheds.
Sharks coach Tony Herman would have been ropeable with his side’s first half performance and would have pleaded with them to put in a better stint in the second half but unfortunately for the coach and his side’s supporters, things didn’t get any better in the second stanza.
Josh Mantellato scored his second try of the day in spectacular fashion in the 50th minute when he launched himself towards the corner and grounded the ball one handed with the vast majority of his body sideways and above the touchline.
Mantellato would go on to grab four tries with a further two second half four pointers. He shared the goal kicking duties with Michael Dobson on the day, but ended with a personal tally of 24 points courtesy of his four tries and four goals.
James Elias also capped off a strong performance after he was called into the starting side as a late replacement for Pat Mata’utia, scoring his second try of the day late in the match.
Nathan Gardner grabbed a late consolation try for the Sharks while Michael Dobson also chimed in with a four pointer of his own.
Next weekend the Sharks face a must win match at Remondis Stadium when they host the Roos on Saturday while the Knights will play host to the Warriors at St Johns Oval, Charlestown, also on Saturday afternoon.
Newcastle Knights 56 (J Mantellato 4, J Elias 2, N Ross, B Wiliame, M Dobson, T Randell tries; J Mantellato 4, M Dobson 4 goals) def. Cronulla Sharks 12 (N Gardner, T Robinson tries; D Holdsworth 2 goals) at Hunter Stadium.