In the second night of NRL finals for 2009, the Newcastle Knights have bowed out of the competition for this year – starting well in their game against the Bulldogs, but losing focus and getting run down heavily.
The fancied Titans too went down to the Broncos, the home side chasing hard to get within 4 points of the experienced Brisbane side – but really never looked likely to pip the improving Broncos side.
The Knights started ideally in their game, looking strong and jumping out to an early lead – but injuries to the underdone De Gois as well as Zeb Taia proved very costly, as dumb errors followed and the Bulldogs grew in confidence. The powerful Dogs servered well by young gun Jamaal Idris and eventually posted a 24-12 win at ANZ Stadium.
The elimination game for the Knights sees them finish the year on a sour note, when everything looked so good early in the piece. Sadly, rookie coach Rick Stone probably made some poor decisions for his side, initially in letting Isaac De Gois take the field and then leaving a busted Zeb Taia remain on the field for so long.
De Gois lasted just one tackle and was sent packing from the field with his knee injury, immediately leaving the Knights low on personnel.
Then when Zeb Taia was injured, the Dogs ran straight for him. Idris carving the Knights forward to pieces to post points in the first half.
The Bulldogs without Kimmorley were highly impressive. With Stagg moving to pivot, and their usual tough defence, they were making ground even without the ball. Now with the week off, they should get Kimmorley back in time for the Qualifier and will be hard to stop from here.
Up on the Gold Coast, John Cartwrights side were overpowered by an experienced and pumped up Broncos unit. The final score 40-32.
Coach Cartwright was furious with refereeing and he had every right. Ben Cummins was again at the centre of controversy. The maligned referee has struggled all year in the NRL and was again frustrating the players as he made some horror calls.
Veterans Hodges, Lockyer and Carroll were thundering through their paces and tore the young Gold Coast side to shreds early.
It was 30-10 just after half time, but to their credit the Titans mounted a nice comeback. They got within 4 points after the crowd boosted them on their way, but silly errors and mind boggling passes led to simple Brisbane tries.
Coach Ivan Henjack used big Dave Taylor on the edges again and he was so hard to stop, the Titans eventually moved Lafranchi out there to help, but it was way too late.
Israel Folau was back to his best, posting points and looking dangerous with every tough.
The Brisbane side have hit their straps at the right time and will now be a team to watch in the remaining weeks.
With Newcastle losing, the Titans get a second chance – but if the Eels cause a boilover tomorrow, the Manly side will be sent packing for 2009.