A remarkable second-half comeback has helped inspire the Newcastle Knights to a heat-stopping 22-all draw with the Cronulla Sharks at Remondis Stadium on Sunday.
In a highly entertaining match, the Knights showed enormous courage to fight back from a 22-0 deficit at the halftime break.
Led by halfback Jaelen Feeney and a determined forward pack, the men in red and blue piled on four tries in the second stanza to force a draw.
The one-point collected from the Cronulla match moves Newcastle to the outright lead of the Holden Cup competition after 18 rounds.
The Knights will look to return to continue their form next Sunday when they host the Gold Coast Titans at Hunter Stadium in RiseForAlex Round.
Newcastle made a number of changes prior to kick-off.
Jake Mamo returned from a back injury to take his place on the wing, while Joseph Tapine was named at lock after several weeks in the NRL.
Mamo and Tapine’s inclusions meant both Joe Boyce and Josh Birch dropped out of the final 17-man team.
The Knights received the first attacking opportunity after just five minutes, but couldn’t convert following a wayward pass from halfback Jaelen Feeney.
Cronulla was full of running in the opening exchanges and certainly not afraid to throw the ball around.
Newcastle had a similar attacking game plan, but couldn’t build any momentum on the back of repeated mistakes.
This allowed the Sharks to open the scoring after 17 minutes via halfback Alex Zarounas.
Fullback Valentine Holmes missed the conversion, but was the home side with an early 4-0 lead.
Cronulla were playing with plenty of confidence and extended their lead eight minutes later through Holmes.
The classy No.1 crossed for his second try following a perfectly timed pass from five-eighth Jaden Clarke.
Holmes added the extras to give the Sharks a handy 10-0 advantage with 14 minutes remaining in the first half.
Cronulla added to their advantage just minutes later through five-eighth and captain Clarke.
Holmes converted from in front to give the Sharks a comfortable 16-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the half.
Cronulla was in complete control of the match and crossed on the stroke of halftime to take a commanding 22-0 lead into the break.
Newcastle opened the scoring in the second half via back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
Winger Bryce Donovan converted from adjacent to the uprights to reduce the Sharks' lead to 16 points with 30 minutes remaining.
The Knights may have been poor in the first half, but they seemed like a different team in the second on the back of hard running.
This renewed effort was rewarded after 50 minutes when hooker and captain Danny Levi barged over from close range.
Donovan missed the conversion, but the Knights were back in the game trialling 22-10 with plenty of time left in the match.
Newcastle continued their second-half resurgence when winger Jake Mamo crossed. Donovan nailed the conversion to make the score 22-16 with 16 minutes left.
The Knights were coming home strongly and crossed again via halfback Jaelen Feeney to lock the scores at 22-all with 11 minutes remaining.
Both teams had invaluable chances to seal the game in the dying stages with field goals, but couldn't convert.
Newcastle Knights 22 (T: Fitzgibbon, Levi, Mamo, Feeney, G: Donovan 3/4)
Cronulla Sharks 22 (T: Zaraounas, Holmes, Clarke, Wilder, G: Holmes 3/4)
Mata’utia, Donovan, Smith, Peni, Mamo, Feeney, Keenan, Togiatasi, Levi, Yates, Fitzgibbon, Pondekas, Tapine. Interchange: De Saxe, Petterson-Robati, Taylor, Pakau.
Holmes, Dibley, Simona, Isaako, Addo-Carr, Clarke, Zarounas, Susino, Deitz, Goodwin, Leha, Siolo, Chahoud. Interchange: Lawrence, Wilder, Muller, Drysdale.