KADE Snowden reminded his former Cronulla teammates of exactly how big a shadow he casts with a dominant display in Newcastle's last-minute win at Muswellbrook tonight.
A trial played in torrential first-half rain and regular flashes of lightning - also an unofficial reunion for players on both teams - was won 22-18 by Newcastle after a try by centre Timana Tahu seconds before full-time broke the deadlock.
Knights coach Wayne Bennett said the performance was an improvement on Newcastle's 18-all draw with Penrith a week earlier.
But he said Newcastle were still shy of the level they would need in the season-opener against St George Illawarra on March 1.
"They did some classy things in the first half but lost their way a little bit after about 20 minutes with their shape and their movement,'' Bennett said after the game.
"But overall it was a trial match and that's what you kind of expect.
"We were better than last week and that's what I was looking for . . . [but] we'll need to be a lot better in a couple of weeks' time.''
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said he was "not too disappointed" with the result or the performance.
"We weren't at our best, but we were OK. We showed a little bit of what we can do in the second half,'' he said.
Newcastle had three former Sharks in their squad - Snowden, Matt Hilder and Adam Cuthbertson - and Cronulla had the same number of ex-Knights in Isaac de Gois, Mark Taufua and John Morris.
For Snowden, De Gois and Taufua it was the first time they had lined up against their former colleagues.
Snowden, the Test, NSW and All Stars prop, marked the occasion with his usual hard yards, bruising tackles and a bulldozing blind-side try in the 28th minute.
At one stage the 25-year-old even threw a cut-out pass to centre Timana Tahu and backed up for an inside ball.
Snowden's four-pointer, converted from out wide by Knights skipper Kurt Gidley, gave the Knights an 18-6 half-time lead.
Newcastle's other tries in the opening stanza came from wingers Akuila Uate and James McManus.
Uate opened the scoring in the 10th minute, when star recruit Darius Boyd chimed into the backline and threw a perfect cut-put pass to his Kangaroos teammate, who wrestled through Cronulla's defence to score in the right-hand corner.
Gidley added the extras from the sideline.
Three minutes later, Newcastle's left edge burst through Cronulla's defence and McManus outpaced the cover to score centimetres from touch.
Once again, Gidley's conversion attempt was spot-on.
The Sharks narrowed the deficit in the 23rd minute, when centre Colin Best capitalised on sustained pressure to score out wide.
Halfback Todd Carney converted.
The Snowden try gave Newcastle a handy buffer at the interval, during which both sides made wholesale changes.
Defences held firm until midway through the second half when Morris scored from dummy-half and Carney converted to make a six-point game.
The Knights, who drew 18-all with Penrith last week, found themselves facing the same scoreline eight minutes from time when Sam Tagataese barged over and Chad Townsend goaled.
Sharks winger Isaac Gordon suffered an untimely setback in the 70th minute when he collided heavily with a teammate and was helped off with his arm in a makeshift sling.
The match started in eventful circumstances when Carney's first clearing kick was charged down and Sharks fullback Nathan Gardner was coat-hangered in a clumsy Chris Houston tackle.
Gardner was on the receiving end of further heavy treatment in the seventh minute, when Knights forwards Danny Buderus and Neville Costigan jolted the speedster in a tackle that left him in need of medical assistance.
Newcastle newcomer Alex McKinnon will have given coach Wayne Bennett food for thought with some powerful running down the left edge.
McKinnon, who played three NRL games for the Dragons last season, is still eligible for National Youth Competition this season but appears ready for regular first-grade action.
Another Newcastle project player, forward Korbin Sims - younger brother of North Queensland's Ashton and Tariq - also gave a good account of himself.
Cronulla won the under-20 curtain-raiser 28-26 despite a hat-trick from Knights winger Chanel Mata'utia, brother of fringe first-grader Peter.
In a surprise selection, Bennett started with rookie Marvin Filipo in the back row in the absence of Kiwi international Zeb Taia, who was rested.
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen was another absentee.