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Barba leads Sharks NRL rout over Knights

AAP logoAAP 24/07/2016 By Steve Zemek

A Ben Barba masterclass has fired Cronulla a 36-4 demolition of lowly Newcastle as the Sharks continued their relentless march towards September.

With playmaker James Maloney missing on Sunday, Barba was at his brilliant best in helping Cronulla to their 15th straight win - an eight-tries-to-one rout which saw them retain top spot on the NRL ladder.

In a scrappy game marred by penalties and dropped ball, Barba was in menacing form in front of 16,882 at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

There wasn't much Barba wasn't involved in as he scored two tries, had another two denied by the video referees, set up another two, and came up with a linebreak and three linebreak assists.

"He organised our defensive line well, he was dangerous with the ball, he supported and got a try at the end," coach Shane Flanagan said.

"He's in fine form at the moment and he's working really hard at it. He's in a good place."

The young Knights side lost Jarrod Mullen to injury and offered little resistance, but Flanagan lamented his side's 16 handling errors and nine penalties.

But the Sharks became just the fourth team to win 15 games on end, a statistic that further bolsters their premiership chances.

All five members of the Sharks back five crossed for tries with Valentine Holmes getting a double to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Holmes was influential, running for 236m and terrorising his opposition down the right flank.

For the last-placed Knights, it was their 12th straight loss.

And they had injury added to insult when five-eighth Mullen left the field with what is believed to be a recurrence of a hamstring problem that has disrupted his season.

"The pleasing thing was the last time we played them, at halftime it was about 36-0 and on this occasion it was 10-0 so it probably shows we've come a fair way," Knights coach Nathan Brown said.

The Sharks were controversially twice denied by the bunker.

Holmes was knocked back in the second minute after picking up a loose ball and sprinting 60m but was ruled to have committed a double movement.

Cronulla were the victim of a video referee clanger in the 30th minute when Barba was denied a brilliant solo try after Bernard Sutton ruled hooker Michael Ennis took out his Knights opposite Chris Adams.

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