It was their start that got them the win, one that the Newcastle Knights can be proud of after a 42-18 rout of the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Leaping into sixth position after the win and holding a home final spot, next week’s clash with the Gold Coast Titans is crucial.
With the home final so close they can taste it, Knights coach Adam O’Brien admits it would be exciting for the club.
“I know capacity may only be at 50% but I’ve been here when the place was rocking. I know how difficult it is coming up the highway to play here,” O’Brien said.
“So it would be huge. It would be great for everyone but we’re not there yet.”
The Knights started off like a house on fire with two tries in the first seven minutes.
Makeshift hooker Chris Randall took the line on and found Kalyn Ponga who streaked away to score.
This was followed by an aerial leap from Gehamat Shibasaki off a Mason Lino crossfield kick, and the Knights were flying.
Before too long, the score blew out to 24-0, the Knights asserting their dominance.
Ponga would turn provider for the third, laying on a lovely short ball at the line for Aidan Guerra to crash over.
Daniel Saifiti then continued his good form this season, twisting in the tackle with three Dragons on him to plant the ball down.
It was a different story for the Dragons, though. Errors – and many of them – both from errant passing and predictable kicking.
It went from bad to worse when Ben Hunt was penalised and put on report for a crusher tackle.
Late in the first half, the Dragons would finally get on the scoreboard through in-form centre Zac Lomax.
Lomax, who has been a rare spark for the Dragons in 2020, jostled out of several tackles and found the try-line.
Halfback Mitchell Pearce would then combine with Enari Tuala to give the Knights a commanding 30-6 lead at the break.
The Knights dominance would continue with Jacob Saifiti joining brother Daniel on the scoreboard.
The Dragons would pull one try back, though.
Lomax and youngster Cody Ramsey combined on the right flank, before Ramsey found Norman inside to score.
That faint sniff was shortlived, however, when Tuala scored his second off a lovely short pass from Ponga.
The final try of the game would go the Dragons way and it was their best player in Lomax yet again.
Lomax leaped highest to steal the ball from Ponga and had a short run to the try-line to score a simple try.
The Knights will desperately hope they can hold onto sixth spot and secure their first home final since 2006.
The win was even more special, for it was Old Boys’ Day at the club; a tradition the Knights value highly.
Interim Dragons coach Dean Young was livid with his side’s meek effort and made it known post-game.
“It was just under-8s stuff,” said Young.
“In the end, they made 265 tackles and we made 406.
“So you’re going to get some poor defensive stuff and fundamental errors when you’re making that many tackles.
“But that’s not an excuse. We are much better than that and the players know it.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Kalyn Ponga (NEW)
2. Zac Lomax (SGI)
- Daniel Saifiti (NEW)