Knights O’Brien reign begins with successive wins after victory over Tigers

Newcastle Knights captain and halfback Mitch Pearce

The Newcastle Knights Adam O’Brien tenure has now produced two straight wins to start 2020 after victory over the Wests Tigers.

Led by Mitchell Pearce and with contributions from Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson and Enari Tuala, their attacked flowed with few ebbs.

The Knights took a quick 10-0 lead on the back of Pearce and hooker Jayden Brailey.

Tuala scored his opening try when a bat-back from Edrick Lee was taken by the centre who ran over.

This was quickly followed by a penalty try after Brailey’s grubber seemed set for Mitch Barnett to score.

The Knights back-rower would be held back by Josh Reynolds, however, which was confirmed by the bunker.

Against the run of play, a rare Ponga error off a pass saw David Nofoaluma coast 85 metres to score for the Tigers.

Soon after, Pearce was it again, this time laying on a lovely pass for Lachlan Fitzgibbon who made a break through the Tigers line.

Fitzgibbon then found Kurt Mann on the outside and the five-eighth nabbed another Knights try.

Barnett would later leave the field with a shoulder injury, and Herman Ese’ese continued on with an ankle complaint.

On the cusp of half-time, Reynolds redeemed himself when, using his silky footwork, he found Corey Thompson storming through to score.

The two sides would then interchange tries for a while, with the Knights winger Edrick Lee scoring soon after the break.

A high cross-field kick from Pearce saw Lee jump, take the ball with ease and avoid any defence to coast over the line.

That would put the Knights up 22-12 and they were hungry for more.

It was a mistake by Tuala that allowed the Tigers to score, with Billy Walters scooping it up and finding Reynolds to score.

At 22-18, the game was evenly poised as the sides continued to trade tries.

Ponga then scored a try of his own, with a yawning gap opening up on the back of Brailey’s pass.

Benji Marshall then combined with Luciano Leilua, who powered his way over the line to score, showing too much strength.

Just when the Tigers looked like they could hit the lead, some Pearce magic saw him glide and bustle through the line to score.

Pearce turned provider once again, when he found Tuala, who scooped up the grubber.

With a handy 38-24 lead as a result, Connor Watson put the game to bed when he sliced through some butter-like Tigers defence.

The Watson try sealed the Knights win and has the Knights flying high with two wins and the Tigers sitting with a win and a loss.

Although O’Brien was quick to praise his side, he knows they can be better by applying more pressure.

“There were some moments where I was really happy with our resilience on our line but we had a couple where blokes took their foot of the throat a little bit,” O’Brien said.

“I spoke to the boys earlier and any time you get 24 points against – I know one was an intercept and an error coming out of our end – they’re a dangerous footy team and we spoke about that.

It was a night to forget for the Tigers, with coach Michael Maguire lamenting his side’s attitude.

The Tigers right side was in fact the worst culprits, with five of their seven tries conceded down that flank.

“It was extremely disappointing… that’s not what we’re about and will definitely have to fix that moving forward,” Maguire said.

“I thought the game was there at half-time and it was about who wanted it more.

“That comes back to attitude towards how you want to play and sink your shoulder into a tackle.”

NRL News Player of the Game

3. Mitch Pearce

2. Luciano Leilua

  1. Jayden Brailey

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