An underwhelming Newcastle Knights performance has managed to eke out a victory over the beleaguered North Queensland Cowboys who now slump to their eighth loss in a row.
The Cowboys last win coincidentally came against the Newcastle Knights where the 12 point margin was reversed.
The victory is the third in a row for the Knights who now look comfortably placed for their first finals berth since 2013, sitting seven points clear of the perennially ninth-placed Wests Tigers.
However, the victory has come at a cost for the Hooker hampered Knights.
It appears as though mid-season recruit Blake Green has played his last game of the season for the Newcastle Knights (and possibly career) after just three appearances, leaving the field in the 18th minute with a likely torn ACL.
Significant concern Blake Green suffered a left ACL injury. Not only mechanism of injury (planting left foot, non contact) but can see hands on test performed by trainer shows significant laxity (looseness) in Green’s knee. Best case meniscus tear/bone bruise but not looking good pic.twitter.com/rEm0bozojm
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) August 23, 2020
The injury forced the mercurial Kurt Mann in to his preferred position of Five-Eighth while Phoenix Crossland came off the bench to play big minutes at Hooker.
With the season likely over for Green, Coach O’Brien will once again have big decisions to make for the number nine jersey.
After going up early with a Hymel Hunt putdown, the Knights appeared unable to turn good possession and field position in to points, with Pearce alternating between uninspired bombs or flat-out mistakes.
— NRL (@NRL) August 23, 2020
The forward pack was outstanding though, with David Klemmer leading the way – making 32 tackles and 246 metres in 23 runs over 58 minutes.
Mitch Barnett and Jacob Saifiti filling in for his injured twin also had strong performances.
The lack of execution meant the only other points accrued in the first half were acquired through a 29th minute penalty goal to Kalyn Ponga.
The Knights went in to the break only 8-0 up despite a glut of possession.
The second half commenced in similar fashion to the first, except for Mitchell Pearce remaining in the sheds, sin-binned in the final seconds of the first half for a professional foul (offside tackle).
Still, Newcastle were able to roll forward on the back of a rumbling pack and give the Knights an opportunity for points.
However, it was the Cowboys defense that kept the game to a very tight scoreline despite the onslaught and a sin-binning of their own for Mitchell Dunn.
There was a momentary glimpse of hope when Cowboys go-to man Jason Taumalolo returned to the field from his breather.
His second stint would prove painfully brief – the big man hobbling off with a suspected calf tear only minutes in to his return.
Reported calf injury for Jason Taumalolo. Video blocked but can see pushing off mechanism; matches calf strain. Moved around for a few tackles before requiring assistance from the field, brings concern for moderate strain (3-6wks return). Have to hope for minor strain & 1-3wks pic.twitter.com/oNzfKmLPMr
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) August 23, 2020
Jake Granville worked hard to bring his side back in to the game, his dummy-half scurries finally able to afford the Cowboys desperately needed field position.
It wouldn’t amount to much however, after a Kalyn Ponga pass in the dying minutes saw Enari Tuala dive over in the corner to seal the match 12-0.
Newcastle Knights 12 (Hunt, Tuala) def North Queensland Cowboys 0
Kalyn Ponga 0/2
Kalyn Ponga 2/3
NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Kurt Mann
Started the game at Hooker and then moved in to the Five-Eighth role when Green left the field.
Would alternate between the two roles for the rest of the game and kept a level head when Ponga and Pearce were deteriorating.
2 Points – David Klemmer
Big dog Klem gets the two points on this one. “Led from the front” as they say with massive numbers.
Not to mention the zero errors, zero missed tackles and nine kick metres in 58 minutes.
1 Point – Kalyn Ponga
If it seems odd to only give one point to the man who assisted both tries, I’d argue that’s a bit of what we’re getting from Ponga in 2020.
An undeniably talented who needs to be consistently good for 80 minutes.
One error, two tackles and three misses isn’t great, even at fullback.