Ponga HIA scare in Sharks' victory over Knights
Incumbent Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga was sent for a head injury assessment while Nicho Hynes furthered his case for Origin selection as Cronulla moved into a share of the NRL ladder lead with a 26-6 win over Newcastle.
There were initial concerns for Ponga in the opening minutes of the match when his head made contact with the shoulder of Ronaldo Mulitalo in a tackle and the Knights five-eighth lay motionless on the ground.
But he eventually jogged from the field with the trainer and subsequently passed his HIA, deemed a category two.
The 25-year-old returned to the field and scored immediately to level the scores early on but Newcastle's second-half efforts were undone by errors as Cronulla logged their seventh win of the year heading into a bye next week.
"I stayed down a little bit just from the contact, but in terms of my head and concussion side of things, I felt pretty good," Ponga said.
"I've been through this more than enough times now, I know what the procedure is and what to go through and I felt really good. I felt confident to come back."
Hynes was again instrumental in attack and perfect off the boot as his side registered their 11th win from the last 15 encounters against the Novocastrians.
Skipper Dale Finucane believes his playmaker has done everything and then some to make NSW's side.
"I certainly think he's done enough to deserve and warrant a position in the Blues side for sure," he said.
"His leadership is probably something that's pretty undervalued as well, publicly.
"I think he thoroughly deserves a position there."
Royce Hunt's try 10 minutes from time iced the result after Connor Tracey beat incumbent Queensland centre Dane Gagai on the outside just after halftime.
The Sharks improved their completion rate in the second half after only taking a six-point lead into the break.
Cronulla struck first when a sideline-to-sideline play saw William Kennedy over for his 11th try of the season after dummying past Gagai and beating the tackle of Jackson Hastings.
With 13 tackles inside Newcastle's 20m line through 10 minutes, the Knights were under the pump and it was almost made worse when Tracey put Hynes over, only to be overturned due to obstruction.
Ponga's reintroduction combined with Saifiti brothers Jacob and Daniel upping the ante in midfield built well-needed pressure, and the Knights levelled the scores at the 20-minute mark.
But Tyson Frizell's error in his own half gifted an attacking scrum five minutes later and the Sharks looked in full flow.
Hynes attacked the right edge for a Jesse Ramien break then Cronulla jammed the middle with their forwards before Mulitalo scored.
With dominant territory and possession, the Sharks couldn't add any more points in the first half completing just 13 of their 22 sets.
Jacob Saifiti was placed on report for a crusher tackle on Hynes.