Despite contrasting form in recent times, the Newcastle Knights and Cronulla Sharks faced off as both sides looked to cling on to their spot in the top-eight.
After Blayke Brailey’s kick-off was too long, the Knights were the first to get an attacking chance and looked to open the scores early.
Mitchell Pearce’s kick along the floor rebounded back off the posts after Wade Graham failed to gather, and David Klemmer dived on top of the loose ball.
However, Klemmer was deemed to have knocked-on over the line.
Just a few minutes later, the Sharks made Kalyn Ponga pay for failing to claim a high bomb.
A repeat set ended with a left to right sweeping play, with Ronaldo Mulitalo gathering on the edge and racing around the in-goal area to score.
It took the Knights less than ten minutes to hit back as Kurt Mann’s pass from dummy-half missed both Mason Lino and Enari Tuala for Starford To’a to walk over in the corner.
Minutes later, Newcastle hit the late after Ponga stepped off his left foot and pushed off Scott Sorensen and Braden Hamlin-Uele, as well as the last-ditch tackle from Will Kennedy for his seventh of the season.
Just before the 20-minute mark, To’a picked up his second.
Lino took control of the kicking game, and despite the bounce of the ball making a number of players miss, To’a kept his cool to ground the loose ball.
Tody Rudolf made things worse for the Sharks has hit tackle on Lino found himself in hot water.
Luckily, due to the presence of Wade Graham in the tackle, Rudolf only found himself on report instead of in the sin-bin, with the Sharks captain also placed on report.
The Knights opted to take the two points and extend their lead to 12.
Mitchell Pearce forced yet another error from the Sharks inside their own 10-metre line to force a midfield scrum.
Two tackles later, Ponga demanded the ball and once again used his fancy footwork to break the line and pick up his second.
With five minutes to go until the break, the Knights picked up their fifth try.
Kennedy failed to collect the high pick from Pearce under pressure from Ponga.
The ball ricocheted into the arms of Lino who raced away to score.
However, on second viewing in The Bunker, Ponga was deemed to have knocked the ball into Kennedy and the try was disallowed.
Cronulla looked to counter-attack after the final hooter but Poga put a huge tackle in on Chad Townsend the bring the half to the close.
HALF-TIME: Newcastle Knights 22-4 Cronulla Sharks
Cronulla did a good job holding the Knights out in the opening ten minutes of the half, but they were clearly targeting Ponga.
Having given the full-back a suspected broken nose, Ponga took a 20-metre restart but was pulled back by the referee and Chad Townsend jumped off the floor and hit a defenceless Ponga high with a shoulder charge.
Townsend was sent-off on his return, but Ponga was still up and laughing about the incident during the melee.
Despite being a man down, the Sharks appeared to play better without Townsend.
Connor Tracey ran the ball close to the line and busted through the tackle of Lino for a try.
Phoenix Crossland was the next to leave the field, but by no fault of his own as he was left trailing in the wake of Bryson Goodwin.
In a second-half in which scoring opportunities were limited, a fifth Knights try came from nowhere.
Mitchell Pearce attacked down the left-edge on two consecutive tackles and put Lachlan Fitzgibbon through a gap and over Kennedy to score.
Ponga rubbed the salt into the wounds of the Sharks as Ponga received the ball out the ball and accelerated past Tracey to pick up his first NRL hat-trick.
In the final minute of the game, Josh King, in game 59, crashed over from just two metres out after picking up a short pass from Kurt Mann, for his first NRL-try.
FULL-TIME: Newcastle Knights 38-10 Cronulla Sharks
Ponga, To’a, Tuala, Shibasaki, Hunt, Lino, Pearce, Klemmer, Mann, Saifiti, Fitzgibbon, Guerra, Barnett
Interchanges: Crossland, Ese’ese, King, Jones
Tries: To’a (2), Ponga (3), Fitzgibbon, King
Goals: Ponga (0/2), Lino (5/6)
Kennedy, Mulitalo, Dugan, Ramien, Goodwin, Trindall, Townsend, Hamlin-Uele, Brailey, Woods, Nikora, Graham, Sorensen
Interchanges: Rudolf, Tracey, Talakai, Hunt
Tries: Mulitalo, Tracey
Goals: Trindall (0/1), Goodwin (1/1)
Referee: B. Cummins
Touch Judges: P. Henderson, M. Noyen
Video Referee: B. Norrie
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)