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‘Real deal’ Sharks are utterly ruthless


The Sharks have hit the ground running under new coach Craig Fitzgibbon, claiming a third straight win after their late round one loss to the Canberra Raiders.Taking down NRL heavyweights in the Eels, thrashing the Dragons in a rivalry match and now blanking early surprise packets Newcastle 18-0 in blustery conditions at home, the noise around Cronulla is just getting louder.Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free In Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >Just four matches into his NRL coaching career, Craig Fitzgibbon has already made converts of many people as Nicho Hynes keeps kicking goals.Well metaphorical goals at least.In blustery conditions, the Sharks half only kicked one goal from four attempts, Hynes even asking “is there any point?” when he lined up a sideline conversion in the first half when kicking into the wind.But while his goalkicking boot was off, the Sharks were slick as they kept Kalyn Ponga and his Knights quiet.The Sharks ran more than 500 more metres than the Knights, made five line breaks to Newcastle’s one and a remarkable 48 to 17 in tackle breaks.Backrower turned centre Siosifa Talakai had 22 runs for 228m, and matched the Knights entire team with 17 tackle breaks himself according to the NRL’s stats.And it was despite a controversial try being taken away from the Sharks.In the 32nd minute, the bunker denied a try to Talakai when fullback Will Kennedy ran behind Cameron McInnes, who back into the Knights defensive line but didn’t appear to impede Jacob Saifiti, who was the closest player.The bunker ruled he had forced the Knights player to take a less direct line to the play.But it hardly mattered as the Sharks never appeared troubled by the Knights, despite leading just 8-0 until the 68th minute when two tries blew out the score.As Ponga was tackled to finish the match, commentator Andrew Voss praised the Sharks’ performance.“Not much happened around Kalyn Ponga but that’s not the reason for defeat,” Voss said. “They’ve been beaten by a good footy team tonight that’s played really well. Not too many holes or things you could pick or criticise Cronulla for.“This is a good football side my friends, a very good football side.“The football in this Sharks side three weeks in a row… they look every bit a finals side.”Fellow Fox League commentator Greg Alexander was stunned by the performance as well.“I can’t believe how fluent the Sharks’ attack is,” Alexander said.“For a side that has a new spine, a lot of new players and a lot of new moving parts… they are continually pressuring this Newcastle defence.”Social media was also impressed by what they saw from Cronulla.AAP’s Scott Bailey said: “So Cronulla eh? They’re the real deal.”Code Sports’ Lachlan McKirdy tweeted: “Blayke Brailey is playing the best footy of his career. Fitzy has absolutely unlocked his running game in one pre-season.”SBS sport lead Adrian Arciuli wrote: “Early days, but will be shocked if @cronullasharks don’t finish in the top 4. Such a balanced side and still with Wade Graham to come back.”Earlier in the week, Matty Johns threw his support behind the Sharks and was unable to find many holes in the side.“I really like what I see in the Sharks,” Johns said on SEN Breakfast.“We anticipated before the season started that they’d be right on the cusp of the top four.“Nicho Hynes has gone from a utility player to an out-an-out seven. The leadership, as far as tactics, across the field is outstanding. “I love the way they defend. They’ve got a great young forward pack. I definitely think they are the real deal.”After the evidence they’ve shown so far, it’d be hard to argue.

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