The Newcastle Knights continue their good form at the business end of the NRL season, tonight dealing with the Titans successfully 32-12 at Skilled Park, forcing their way back into the NRL top 8 and consigning the young Gold Coast team to their 7th defeat in 8 weeks.
With no.7 Jarrod Mullen in nice touch and guiding the Newcastle side around well, the Knights pulled off some smooth attacking movements and were always in control with a 3-try run midway through the first half, and the Titans had no answer – despite an impressive debut by youngster Jordan Rankin at the ripe age of 16.
Trailing by 20 points early in the second stanza, the 16-year-old schoolboy prodigy was handed his baptism of fire by coach John Cartwright.
After a week in the limelight, Rankin was handed his debut try on a platter – only to spill it over the line.
“My defence wasn’t on par,” Rankin told Fox Sports after the match.
“There were a few big boys out there tonight and that’s something I’ll work on.
“I got roughed up before but that was something you’d expect.
“I wish I could have scored that try.
“I’m back to school tomorrow, I’ve got to start studying for my end of term tests.”
But even the magical Scott Prince – who missed the match with a broken arm – couldn’t have turned the tide for the Coast who continue to struggle without key strike-weapons – Luke Bailey and Mat Rogers.
The home team weren’t without their chances early in the piece when Newcastle centre Adam MacDougall was placed on report – not once, but twice – in the space of two tackles.
But the villain turned hero when he set up the Knights’ opening points in the 17th minute.
He might soon spend some time in the stands, but the barnstorming centre was making his most of his time on the paddock – creating an overlap within his own half before sending a flying James McManus down the touchline.
Support play specialist Kurt Gidley was, predictably, lurking on the inside and slammed the pill down for the opening points.
Moments later, it was again MacDougall – this time fielding a pin-point bullet pass from Jarrod Mullen before dissecting the Titans’ shaky line in his usual bulldozing style to put the Knights clear by 10.
Back to back tries had the Titans looking rattled, and Mullen sniffed an opportunity.
A deft chip found the chest of Cooper Vuna who tore down the left touchline before unloading a remarkable back-handed flick to Junior Sau.
Sau sold Campbell a textbook dummy, fist-pumping the air as he slid over for the Knights’ third in just seven minutes.
The Titans, desperate to break their duck before the break, turned to Campbell for inspiration. The little master didn’t let them down.
Sweeping deep around behind the ruck, Campbell drew in the Knightsâ€™ left edge defenders before rocketing a pass wide to a flying Jordan Ropani who dotted down untouched.
Campbell slotted the extras to make it a ten point ball game at the break.
The Titans needed to continue their charge after halftime, but their momentum was sapped when Danny Buderus found them napping in the first set of the second stanza.
The Knights skipper linked up with Cory Paterson who slipped a pass inside for Junior Sau to rack up his double.
Down by 14, the home team needed the bounce of the ball to go their way – and the football gods smiled upon them when Chris Houston was denied a try under the posts following an error from Campbell.
But the Knights weren’t denied five minutes later when Paterson charged down the left flank to stretch the gap to 20.
The tally was extended when Vuna fielded a sublime cut-out pass from Gidley late in the match to make the scoreboard look embarrassing for the home team.
A last minute consolation try to prop Brad Meyers did little but flatter the Titans, who’ll begin their uphill battle to regain their place in the eight against the Cowboys next Saturday.
The Knights will travel down to Canberra and face the red hot Raiders, but could be without MacDougall and backrower Steve Simpson who was also placed on report for a lifting tackle.
NEWCASTLE 32 (J Sau 2 K Gidley A MacDougall C Paterson C Vuna tries K Gidley 2 C Paterson 2 goals)
bt GOLD COAST 12 (B Meyers J Rapana tries P Campbell 2 goals)