We knew the NRL Auckland Nines would be frenetic and fast-paced, but the Newcastle Knights opening game against Cronulla was something else.
That’s the general consensus after the Knights’ opening match of the inaugural tournament versus the Sharks.
In a highly entertaining match, Newcastle went down to Cronulla 15-12 via a try to winger Nathan Gardner with just 60 seconds remaining.
Newcastle can take plenty of positives out of the match though, with five-eighth Jarrod Mullen, halfback Tyrone Roberts and NYC graduate Jake Mamo all impressing.
The Knights will now rest up, before taking on the Gold Coast Titans in their second match at 2.45pm (AEST).
With the Titans easily accounting for the Tigers in their first match, 22-7, it's set to be a crucial game for the Club if they are to progress through to the quarter final stages of the tournament.
Newcastle started the match full of running, spreading the ball wide at every opportunity in the opening exchanges.
Emerging winger Mamo and centre Dane Gagai looked dangerous with the ball in hand, but couldn’t covert their early chances.
This changed in the fourth minute when halfback Tyrone Roberts swooped on a lose pass from the Sharks to run 60 metres and score.
Mullen converted from the sideline to give the Knights an early 6-0 advantage.
Cronulla hit back just two minutes later via a barnstorming Sam Tagataese, who barged over under the posts for a five-point try.
Holdsworth added the extras for the Sharks to lead 7-6 at the halftime break.
Cronulla extended their lead just two minutes into the second half, with five-eighth Todd Carney proving too elusive.
Holdsworth missed the kick, but the Sharks jumped out to an 11-6 lead.
The Knights remained composed and surged back into the lead just two minutes later via some magnificent work from Mullen.
Firstly the five-eighth made a strong 40 metre run, before laying on a pinpoint kick for centre Joseph Leilua to score out wide.
Mullen converted another goal from the sideline to give his side a slender 12-11 advantage.
The Knights looked to be in a winning position with only minutes remaining, but had their hearts broken in the dying stages.
Sharks winger Nathan Gardner finishing off a back line move to score in the corner with just seconds remaining to give his side the win.
Match 1 Full Time
Newcastle Knights 12 (T: Roberts, Leilua, G: Mullen 2/2)
Cronulla Sharks 15 (BT: Tagataese, T: Carney, Gardner, G: Holdsworth 1/3)
Team v Sharks
2 – Jake Mamo
4 – Joseph Leilua
5 – Akuila Uate
6 – Jarrod Mullen (c)
7 – Tyrone Roberts
9 – Adam Clydsdale
10 – Chris Houston
11 – Beau Scott
13 – Jeremy Smith
3 – Dane Gagai
8 – Willie Mason
12 – Robbie Rochow
14 – Michael Dobson
15 – Alex McKinnon
16 – Zane Tetevano
The Knights play the Cronulla Sharks before meeting the Gold Coast Titans, followed by the West Tigers on Sunday.
Fox Sports has live coverage of the Nines. Follow @NRLKnights on Twitter for all game details.