The Newcastle Knights might be down and out on some troops but they have heart and passion to succeed and very nearly pulled off a great win away from home against the New Zealand Warriors.
Playing at Mt Smart Stadium, it was an enthralling contest with both sides enjoying periods of dominance, sustained possession and attacking opportunities.
With several front-line players out, the Knights cause was not helped when Tyrone Roberts also departed the field with a foot injury of some sort.
The injuries and relative inexperience in certain positions proved telling for the Knights, as their opponents ran them ragged early and scored several tries through some great attacking brilliance.
The Knights resolve was strong, though, and after two quick tries of their own before the half-time break, they found themselves trailing by just six points.
They stayed in the contest and dug deep to perform well and despite the loss, it was an effort from his players that coach Rick Stone was proud of.
“We probably just had a couple of lapses in concentration with a couple of soft tries – the first try in the first half and probably the first try in second half to be honest were pretty soft tries in the context of the game,” Knights coach Rick Stone said.
“I am really proud of the team, they got through their sets alright and competed pretty hard in defence. Like I said the lack of concentration hurt us a bit, some soft tries make a difference in close games.”
In front of the 13,203 strong crowd, the Warriors win was enough to keep them in the top eight and whilst he will take the points, there were aspects of the game that did not please Warriors coach Andrew McFadden.
“I wouldn’t say I am completely satisfied with it. We will take the points but it wasn’t very convincing,” Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said.
“We just gave up too many easy points and when you are trying to build pressure on a team you need to hold them out in those critical moments, and turn them away a lot more than we did.”
There was one true shining light for the Knights and that was the work from fullback Dane Gagai, fast becoming one of the club’s most important players.
“He’s dangerous and the fullback position gives him the opportunity to get the ball in his hands as often as he can,” said Stone.
“I thought he popped up everywhere and was a consistent threat to the Warriors’ defensive line. He made himself a nuisance.”
Player of the Game:
3. Shaun Johnson
2. Dane Gagai
1. Ben Matulino
Warriors 24 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Solomone Kata, Jonathan Wright tries; Johnson 2 goals) def. Knights 20 (Dane Gagai, Akuila Uate 2, James McManus tries; Tyler Randell, Gagai goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Crowd: 13,203. Halftime: 14-8.