The under fire Canterbury Bulldogs have all but shattered the Newcastle Knights’ chances of playing finals football in 2018, beating them 36-16 on Saturday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The hype around the recent player movements and salary cap predicament didn’t seem to faze the boys from Canterbury in the early exchanges of the match. The Bulldogs’ intent to place the Knights playmakers under pressure was evident early, with Kalyn Ponga and Jack Cogger driven into the turf by the Bulldogs’ big men on multiple occasions. The first try of the match came in the 16th minute to Kerrod Holland, following a spectacular flick pass from winger Reimis Smith. On the back of a poor kick from Jeremy Marshall-King, the Knights first four-pointer came five minutes later courtesy of Connor Watson, who sliced through the Bulldogs’ right edge defence to score. Another try to Kerrod Holland in the 27th minute saw the Bulldogs regain the lead, before the Knights responded and sent Connor Watson over to collect his second. A try to Herman Ese’ese in the dying stages of the first-half saw the Knights take a 16-12 lead into half-time.
Injuries to Kalyn Ponga and Slade Griffin in the first-half proved costly for the Knights. Despite looking dangerous and taking the advantage into half-time, the Knights emerged as a different team in the second forty – making numerous handling errors and poor defensive decisions. The Bulldogs capitalised on these mistakes and went on to score twenty-four unanswered points in the second half. After continually peppering the left edge of the Knights, both Reimis Smith and Jeremy Marshall-King eventually crossed for tries in the 43rd and 46th minutes, respectively. A clever scoot from dummy half shortly after saw utility Fa’amanu Brown score under the posts and resultantly put the Bulldogs out to an unsalable lead. However, the icing on the cake for the Bulldogs came in the final minute of the game, when Josh Jackson scored in the corner and sealed the comprehensive victory over a depleted Knights side.
Experience Leads Dogs Home
David Klemmer and Josh Jackson were instrumental in helping the Bulldogs secure their fifth win of the season. In his 74-minute stint, Klemmer had 24 runs for a whopping 203 metres, produced five offloads and made 33 tackles. Similarly, Jackson finished the game with 109 metres and 35 tackles. The power and go-forward that each player provided, particularly in the second half, gifted the new look Bulldogs spine many try scoring opportunities and gave them the confidence to run the ball and take on the Knights’ defensive line. If the Bulldogs are to continue to be competitive and post wins in the latter part of the 2018 season, it is vital that these two players continue to lead from the front.
It was a dire evening for the Knights, who lost both Kalyn Ponga and Slade Griffin to injury in the first-half. After looking ominous and challenging the Bulldogs’ defensive line in the first 15 minutes, Ponga reeled out of a tackle gingerly, grasping his hamstring. This injury proved to be a crucial blow in the context of the game and highlighted how important the 19-year old is to the attacking make-up of the Knights. Whilst the extent of the damage has not yet been determined, both the Knights and the Queensland Maroons will be holding their breath in hope that he isn’t sidelined for too long. Slade Griffin was another casualty to come out of this Round 16 clash. The Knights hooker appeared to be in extreme discomfort after his left knee was caught in an awkward position just before half-time. Given his track record with ACL injuries, it is hoped, for the sake of the Knights season and Griffin’s health, that this injury is not as bad as it first appeared.
Knights’ Finals Hopes Squashed
The 36-16 loss to the Bulldogs is going to make it almost impossible for the Knights to be playing come September. With the worst points differential in the competition, the Knights now have to win every one of their remaining eight games if they are to round out and finish within the top eight. Whilst this is highly unlikely, when considering the talent and quality of players within the Knights roster, they can’t be written off just yet.
It’s all in the Name
21-year old Lachlan Lewis, nephew of the great Wally Lewis, will remember this game for the rest of his life. His first taste of NRL was very impressive, running for 46 metres and making 32 tackles. In a Bulldogs team that has been struggling for the majority of the 2018 season, he never looked out-of-place or overawed by the situation. Lewis, along with his halves partner Jeremy Marshall-King, controlled the Bulldogs attack through their simple passes and clever kicking game. Showing poise and confidence beyond his years, it appears that this selection by coach Dean Pay was the injection of youth that the Bulldogs have been looking for.
Newcastle Knights 16
Tries: Connor Watson 2, Herman Ese’Ese
Goals: Ken Sio 2
Canterbury Bulldogs 36
Tries: Kerrod Holland 2, Reimis Smith, Jeremy Marshall-King, Fa’amanu Brown, Josh Jackson
Goals: Rhyse Martin 6
Newcastle Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sion Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Jack Cogger, 8 Herman Ese’Ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Josh King, 11 Sam Stone, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra (c). Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 17 Jacob Lillyman, 18 Jamie Buhrer.
Canterbury Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Kerrod Holland, 4 Marcelo Montoya, 5 Reimis 6 Lachlan Lewis, 7 Jeremy Marshall-King, 8 Aidan Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, Josh Jackson (c), 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Fualalo, 16 Ofahiki Ogden, 17 Greg Eastwood.