Cronulla have savaged a hopelessly out-classed Newcastle with a record 62-0 NRL rout at Hunter Stadium, stretching their winning streak to seven on a black day for the Knights.
The Sharks led 28-0 at half-time and ran in 11 tries to nil, handing the Knights their worst-ever loss on home soil, surpassing a 50-0 shut-out by Parramatta in 2005 amid Newcastle’s club-record 13-game losing streak.
It was Newcastle’s second-worst loss anywhere, behind only a 71-6 thrashing from Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in 2007, and displacing the 53-0 loss to the Broncos at Suncorp on April 16 this year.
On a day of records, the Sharks equalled their biggest-ever winning margin, matching a 68-6 victory over Manly in 2005.
It was also Cronulla’s biggest win over Newcastle, going past the 64-14 hammering they handed out at Cronulla in 2002.
The Sharks moved to second place on the ladder, behind leaders Brisbane only on percentage and also tied on 16 points with third-placed Melbourne.
They left the Knights languishing at the bottom with just one win and a draw from 10 matches.
Wing sensation Valentine Holmes scored three of his four tries in the first 26 minutes as the Sharks attacked Newcastle’s brittle left-edge defence and reaped the rewards.
Cronulla left winger Sosaia Feki scored a treble, back-rower Luke Lewis bagged a brace, fullback Ben Barba scored a try and was involved in the lead-up to several others and Wade Graham also crossed.
Newcastle were held scoreless for the second straight match after going down 38-0 to Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on April 30, making it a combined 100-0 against in their past two games.
The Knights fielded the youngest halves pairing in their history because NSW hopeful Trent Hodkinson was ruled out with a knee injury and Jarrod Mullen is sidelined with a torn hamstring.
Eighteen-year-old Jack Cogger, the son of former Wests Magpies playmaker Trevor Cogger, became the 10th NRL debutant Knights coach Nathan Brown has blooded this season.
Cogger joined 19-year-old Brock Lamb, who made his NRL debut against the Roosters a fortnight earlier, in the halves against Cronulla’s experienced duo of James Maloney and Chad Townsend.
Maloney did his chances of a NSW Origin recall no harm by kicking nine goals from 11 attempts and helping Townsend, Barba and hooker Michael Ennis steer the Sharks around against the Knights.
Lamb and Cogger, who have formed a friendship and strong bond rising through Newcastle’s junior ranks together, became the youngest NRL halves in Knights history.
They surpassed Mullen and Luke Walsh, who were both 20 when they teamed up against Canberra on June 18, 2007.
Nathan Ross suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up, earning 18-year-old Cory Denniss a late call-up to the left wing and giving Newcastle seven players aged 20 or under in their starting side.
Denniss joined Sione Matautia (19), Cogger, Lamb, 20-year-old twins Jacob and Daniel Saifiti and 19-year-old hooker Danny Levi in one of the youngest teams the Knights have ever put on the field.