Knights Fast Start Cool Finish
The Knights put to bed some 2nd half demons this week holding out for a much needed victory against the St George Illawarra Dragons. The Knights were as they have been for the majority of the season fast out of the blocks and shot to a 12-0 lead after as many minutes thanks to a pair of quality kicks from Brock Lamb. On the back of some powerful early runs by the Knights pack Lamb was able to grubber for himself and regather to post first points, he then showed his long kicks are just as deadly with a perfectly weighted cross field kick for a high flying Shaun Kenny-Dowall who did a great job taking the catch and scoring his first try at his new home ground. But starting games well hasn’t been the issue for the Knights this season and although happy with the start of the match the vocal home crowd of 15,031 were left nervous going into the halftime break after former Knights Captain Tariq Sims scored on the stroke of halftime to leave the Knights with a slender 2 point lead. The Knights have often let a good first half slip in the first 15 minutes of their second halves but for the first time this season they kept the Dragons try-less in the second half. A try to Jacob Saifiti in the 71st minute to give the Knights back the lead after a Gareth Widdop penalty goal was then followed by a Field Goal to Trent Hodkinson to seal the Knights 3rd win of the season. You could feel the nervous tension released by the fans as they finally watched their team close out a tight game after some recent close loses. Coach Nathan Brown said it wasn’t his sides best performance but was happy his team “found a way to win”.
The Knights celebrated the signing of Broncos ‘metre eater’ Herman Ese’ese this week but the Saifiti Twins Daniel and Jacob showed that Big Herman will have good company next season in the engine room for the Knights. With Daniel laying the early platform Jacob was able to come off the bench and play the best game of his career racking up an astonishing 198 metres off 21 runs in only 47 minutes. Daniel hit the ground running in the NRL leaving a good impression in his first season and has established himself as a NRL starting prop and leader of the Knights pack, but Jacob took longer to settle and was even dropped back to ISP Cup earlier this season. But Jacob is now hitting his straps and making his own mark on the competition with his powerful runs and improved work rate, the brothers combined for a walloping 351 metres off 33 runs which was made more impressive by the quality opposition they faced in the Dragons pack. Nathan Brown has resisted from having both brothers on the field together due to the knights shortage of Props, but if the Twins keep this form up Brown may no choice but to start the Fijian brothers in the front row next season.
Dragons Costly Slip Up
In all due respect to the Newcastle Knights when any side comes up against them they’re expecting to take home the two competition points and the Dragons were not doubt banking on these two points as they run into the finals. The Dragons seemed to take the Knights lightly in their previous meeting this season trailing 28-10 at halftime and they didn’t seem to learn their lesson after letting the Knights skip to another early lead. The Dragons were able to rally in the second half at Kogarah in round 16 to get out of jail but not this time and although there might have been some calls go against the Dragons there was no arguing the better team on the day won. Coach Paul McGregor might find himself in hot water after labelling the refs “embarrassing and incompetent” after the Dragons had two tries disallowed via the Bunker. Although McGregor stopped short of blaming the officials for the loss he was clearly angered by the decisions and felt they played a big part in his sides defeat. Maybe McGregor was taking out some of his frustrations after seemingly returning to form last week with a big win over Manly the Dragons were back to the poor form which has seen them fall from the top four to battling to hold onto 8th position. Now equal with the resurgent Penrith Panthers on 24 points they can’t afford many more slip ups if they want to play finals Football this season.
Young Knights Keep Improving
If you measured the Knights season purely on competition points you’d say there isn’t much to be excited about, but if you measured it on the progress and improvement of their young players you can start to see light at the end of the tunnel. Beaten, bashed and humiliated in most games last season the Knights have competed in nearly every game in 2017 and the improvement is there for everyone to see. The NRL is a tough school and the Young Knights have been learning on the run sure they make some mistakes every player does but it’s important for young players to learn from their mistakes and bounce back. One player who has shown he’s learning and bouncing back is Brock Lamb, the 20 year old has learnt some tough lessons in his first full season of NRL. After starting every game this season and taking on the lead play maker role he was dropped to reserve grade for a week before returning against the Bulldogs where his 5th tackle kick for touch was charged down and regathered for a match winning try to Moses Mybe which cost the Knights a deserving win. His missed penalty on fulltime topped off a forgettable return to first grade and after two major disappointments in the same game you could excuse a young player from falling into their shell. But Lamb has bounced back and put in some solid performances over the next few weeks and put in a Man of the Match performance against the Dragons including a solo effort for a try and another try assist. Like Lamb and the Saifiti twins the other Knights youngsters have showed great improvement from this time last year but they still have a lot more to go, defence is still a big issue and even though they kept the Dragons to 14 points they missed 63 tackles. Missing that many tackles in a game doesn’t usually lead to a win but credit to the Knights for their scrambling defence which kept the Dragons at bay. In recent weeks the Knights have had a problem with having their kicks charged down which has lead to tries against the Dogs and Broncos, they seemed to have worked on their final play options and didn’t have any charge downs this week but will have to work on their kick chase after the Dragons back three consistently made massive returns. Another sign the Young Knights are learning and improving, but still have a lot more learning and improving to go.
Tries: Brock Lamb, Shaun Kenny Dowall and Jacob Saifiti
Goals: Trent Hodkinson 4
Field Goals: Trent Hodkinson 1
Tries: Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims
Goals: Gareth Widdop 3