Cronulla grabbed a psychological advantage over Newcastle leading into the season opener with a 30-6 hammering in Saturday’s trial match at Maitland Sportsground.
The two sides will clash again in 13 days in the opening round at McDonald Jones Stadium. The new-look Knights, whose starting side included high-profile recruits David Klemmer, Tim Glasby, Jesse Ramien, James Gavet, Kurt Mann and Edrick Lee, were given a brusque reminder that the Sharks remain their bogey team.
Cronulla have won eight consecutive NRL games against Newcastle, a streak dating back to 2015 and which includes scorelines as ugly as 62-0, 36-4, 48-10 and 38-12.
They have every reason to be supremely confident of making it nine straight on March 15. Paul Gallen and company were quick to grab the upper hand on Saturday. They drew first blood in the sixth minute, when fullback Matt Moylan created an overlap for centre Josh Dugan to crash over.