Canterbury Bulldogs 16 (M Brown, S Kasiano, A Tolman tries; Hodkinson 2 conversions)
Newcastle Knights 12 (J McManus tries, R Rochow ; Roberts 1 conversion, 1 penalty)
A surprise visit from Alex McKinnon to the Newcastle Knights dressing room has not been able to spark the side to victory, with the Canterbury Bulldogs again leaving it late before winning 16-12 at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, in front of 15,286 fans.
McKinnon, who broke his back in round three, joined the team in the sheds for the first time since the incident, giving the team both a lift for the game, as well as some perspective outside of football.
However, against the competition leaders it was always going to be a tough ask for the Knights to cause an upset, particularly missing key forward Willie Mason due to suspension.
And despite sending a scare to a somewhat out of sorts Bulldogs team, the Newcastle side could not overcome their opposition, despite having a greater percentage of possession throughout the match.
The Bulldogs jumped out of the blocks early, scoring in just the sixth minute of play through Mitch Brown, thanks largely to a spectacular take from five eight Josh Reynolds of a cross field bomb.
The Knights looked to get back in to the match, going close through Darius Boyd, before a sweeping backline move in the 23rd minute of the contest allowed winger James McManus to carry three defenders over the line and still manage to plant the ball down.
The scores stayed level at 4-all until the 38th minute of the match when the Bulldogs, in good field position thanks to a Sam Perrett break from a scrum, scored again after Tony Williams proved to strong for Jarrod Mullen to tackle, the big forward offloading to his partner in size Sam Kasiano to score under the posts, and give the Canterbury side a 10-4 halftime lead.
The second half didn’t start well for Newcastle either, the kick off going out on the full, however they dodged a bullet when in the ensuing set, the side line in beat a diving Corey Thompson to the ball to stop the Bulldogs from extending their lead.
In the 47th minute, the Knights then locked up the game againcourtesy of a Robbie Rochow try, the Knights lock scoring following a sublime inside flick pass from half back Tyrone Roberts who also converted the try.
Four minutes later, the boot of Roberts gave the Knights the lead following a strip penalty against James Graham on Korbin Sims.
The Knights looked to hold out the Bulldogs, however having been unable to post further points, it was always going to be a slender lead to maintain and in the 71st minute the Bulldogs took the match when Corey Thomspon put pressure on opposite Jake Mamo, who couldn’t defue the crossfield kick allowing Aiden Tolman to juggle the football before catching it and planting the ball down for what would be the winning try of the match.