With results going left, right, to the centre, and every which way, it is the Newcastle Knights that are on top of the NRL ladder, after their 34-22 win over the North Queensland Cowboys at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
With the Knights seemingly in command, a mini-revival from the Cowboys restored some respectability into the score, but it was not enough, as the Knights were simply too good on the night.
In the absence of fullback Kurt Gidley, someone had to step up, and it was the right side combination of Akuila Uate and Wes Naiqama that did just that.
For the Cowboys, it was their first half that clearly let them down, as they just could not hold onto the ball, and it cost them dearly as the Knights stormed out to a commanding lead.
It was not a game to remember for Ashley Graham either, in what was his 100th game for the Cowboys.
Despite the irritating humidity at the game, Knights coach Rick Stone was pleased with his teams effort.
“Overall to get to that particular lead I thought we played pretty clinical, not perfect, but good enough considering the conditions,” he said.
In the absence of fullback Kurt Gidley, Stone especially praised Knights halfback, Jarrod Mullen.
“I think he handled things particularly well, kicked well, controlled our game,” he said.
“Probably getting to 34-6, our execution was okay and a lot of things we planned to do definitely helped us.”
The downside for Mullen however, is that he suffered a bruised sternum, that both he and the Knights are hoping does not flair up, and that the pain goes away.
“It’s (sternum) pretty sore,” he said.
“It was all right the first half but when I cooled down a bit at half time it got gradually worse and by the end of it I couldn’t really breathe properly.”
For Cowboys coach Neil Henry, it was the poor ball control that irritated him the most, and he believes that it no doubt, cost his side the game, or at least the chance to win the game.
“It’s a pretty bitter pill,” Henry said.
“They certainly played well but I suppose 65 per cent possession in the first half and an extra 70 tackles…I certainly thought we were in with a show here if we can control the ball.”
NEWCASTLE 34 (R Fa’aoso B Henry J McManus W Naiqama C Paterson A Uate tries W Naiqama 5 goals C Paterson field goal)Â NORTH QUEENSLAND 22 (A Graham 2 L Ah Mau B Jones tries J Thurston 3 goals) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referees: Jared Maxwell, Phil Haines.Crowd: 14,061
Dally M Points
3 Jarrod Mullen
2 Beau Henry
1 Wes Naiqama