Newcastle Knights take on Cronulla Sharks in Round 12 of the 2018 NRL season

CRONULLA moved ominously into the NRL top four - and Newcastle slipped four points behind the top eight - after a 48-10 hammering at Beanie For Brain Cancer Stadium on Sunday.

The emphatic victory was Cronulla's sixth in a row, and their seventh in as many games against the Knights, a streak dating back to 2015.

The two points lifted the Sharks above the Warriors to fourth on the NRL ladder, behind only joint leaders Penrith and St George Illawarra and level with South Sydney, who have superior for-and-against statistics.

Even without in-form prop Andrew Fifita, who was given the game off to rest a knee injury, the visitors dominated from the outset against a Newcastle team minus injured playmakers Mitchell Pearce (pectoral), Brock Lamb (fractured cheekbone), centre Tautau Moga (knee) and forward Jacob Saifiti (shoulder).

Cronulla led 22-6 at half-time to silence the 20,913-strong crowd, and the second half was virtually a training run.

Tries in the first 11 minutes by Newcastle-bound centre Jesse Ramien and winger Valentine Holmes gave the Sharks a flying start.

A Jayden Brailey try in the 31st minute made it 16-0, but then Knights back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon responded with his sixth try of the season to give the home team a flicker of hope.

Any prospect of a revival was short-lived.

A minute before the break, fullback Josh Dugan scored to reassert Cronulla's superiority, then an Edrick Lee try four minutes after the resumption left the Knights facing a blowout scoreline.

Two further tries by Holmes - taking him to 12 in six games against Newcastle - Luke Lewis and Ramien inflated the margin. 

After a promising start to the season that delivered five wins in the first eight rounds, the Knights have now slipped to four successive losses, including three on home turf.

They are now 11th, two wins behind eighth position.

Newcastle's cause was not helped by head knocks to fullback Kalyn Ponga and hooker Slade Griffin, who were both assessed before returning to the field.

Centre Nathan Ross was also replaced at half-time after struggling with a groin injury.

It capped an unhappy day for Ross, who was also put on report for an attempted trip.

The Knights play last-placed Parramatta at ANZ Stadium on Saturday and both sides desperately need to stop the rot.