It took them a good 40 minutes to warm up, but when they did the South Sydney Rabbitohs turned on the afterburners to wipe the floor with the Knights 22-12 – in front of nearly 16,000 fans at Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford.
With the Knights suffering a growing injury toll leading up to the game, including Ben Rogers and Adam McDougall suffering heat stroke – many felt they would be cannon fodder from the first whistle, but this wasn’t the case.
With a good majority of possession early, the Knights played expansive footy with Scott Dureau calling the shots nicely. They were uptempo and threatened the Bunnies immediately – soon racing away to a two try lead.
At 8-0 the Knights were looking good and the Bunnies were struggling to finish any attacking raids which would have been a major concern for coach Jason Taylor. Souths were quickly frustrated at their inability to puncture the Knights defence, at this point they had played 120 minutes of football without scoring a try – and it was telling on them.
For Newcastle, as they have done all year – they looked great in patches, usually through Kurt Gidley, James McManus and more recently Junior Sau but they just can’t maintain their focus and intensity for the complete 80 minutes.
As Souths continued to be frustrated and gave away a stack of penalties, they needed a miracle.
Enter Craig Wing.
Coach Jason Taylor throwing Wing in at dummy half for some sort of spark and it didn’t take long before the returning Bunny paid his coach back. As soon as Souths got some field position, Wing was there to show the way to the line.
Playing more as a pivot / second receiver at times, Wing knows how to sniff out a try and any broken defence allows him to use his good footwork and acceleration to do the job.
He left Scott Dureau in his wake as he stepped and pinned his ears back for the line, flying over to give Souths the heart start they needed. The experience of Wing and the ability to jag points will be a guiding light for his team if he stays fit.
The injection of Wing was easily the turning point in this match.
The Knights had plenty of ball but weren’t able to convert it all to points and once Wing came on, Souths started running rampant.
Suddenly Issac Luke was cutting the Newcastle side to shreds in the middle and getting away miracle offloads to his running forwards. The horse had bolted and the Knights didn’t know which shed to start looking for it.
So disappointed was coach Brian Smith he hooked playmaker Scott Dureau with 20 minutes to go and when the little half got another run with less than 10 minutes remaining he knocked the ball on from the first touch, his confidence obviously shot to pieces.
The win a good confidence booster for Souths who needed to reaffirm they could turn on the points, with Craig Wing available – they can push Sutton wider and let his loose on the fringes.
Sutton showed his ability to stand, suck in multiple defenders and offload all at once – while Sandow and Wing could rotate the first and second receiver positions mid-field. It gives Souths plenty of freedom.
The Knights who were already in the midst of an injury crisis – will be hurting from this one. If Kurt Gidley wasn’t there, it could have been much worse. The ‘everywhere’ man for the Knigths cleaning up several times and saving at least 2 certain tries with his cover defence.
They badly need a win otherwise the season will be slipping away before they know it. With Mullen, Simpson and Ciraldo already sitting out with injuries and backup half Scott Dureau having a mixed bag today – they may be ruing the decision to cut Luke Walsh loose to the Penrith Panthers.
The Knights are at home to the Manly side next week and the Bunnies make the big trip to New Zealand to face the Warriors.