The Newcastle Knights defeated the Gold Coast Titans 30-24 at McDonald Jones Stadium. The win moved the Knights to 18 competition points and kept their slim finals hopes alive, whilst effectively ending the Titans’ finals chances.
The game had many twists and turns, and it wasn’t clear who was going to win until the dying minutes. The Knights scored first when Mitch Barnett scored a rare try in the 10th minute. The Titans responded well in the next 20 minutes, when Mitch Rein came off the bench and created some panic in the Knights defense. They were able to score two tries quickly for a 12-4 lead. Just as the Knights looked to be going into the break eight points down, Mitchell Pearce put a kick across field for Nick Meaney to take the ball cleanly and dive over next to the posts to trail 12-10 at halftime.
The Titans started the second half with plenty of intent; they caught the Knights napping when AJ Brimson threw a great cut-out pass for Phillip Sami to score in the corner. Not long after this, the Titans got a lucky ricochet off an Ash Taylor kick and Anthony Don scored his second try of the afternoon, putting the Titans ahead 24-10. Unfortunately for the Titans, these would be their last points. Starting with a determined try from second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon, the Knights mounted a comeback, and were able to level the scores with another try to Barnett and a penalty goal to Ken Sio. With all the momentum, the Knights took the lead after Shaun Kenny-Dowall scored off a great inside ball from Connor Watson. The Titans were unable to find an equalizer and the Knights held on to win 30-24.
INFLUENCE OF PEARCE PRICELESS IN KNIGHTS COMEBACK
After coming back from injury last week, Pearce was instrumental once again for the Knights. He was involved in everything, and was responsible for almost every kick in play the Knights had. His experience and leadership were both huge, especially in the second half when the Knights trailed by 14 points. His presence changes the way his team plays. With Pearce on the field, the Knights looked much more threatening in attack, and able to score more points, which is really important when you have the worst defensive record in the competition. It was evident today that when Pearce was controlling the game, Watson was freed up to enforce his dangerous running game on the Titans. It was this running game that lead to the Fitzgibbon try, and the major reason Kenny-Dowall was able to score the eventual match winner.
TITANS’ FINALS HOPES DASHED BY POOR FINISH
This game was always going to be important for the Titans. They looked good for patches of the game, and with 25 minutes remaining were in the box seat to get a win on the road, leading 24-10. They received some bad luck midway through the second half when five-eighth Brimson came off with a concussion and did not return. This seemed to hamper the Titans’ attack, and put more pressure on Taylor to come up with all the plays at the end of every set. The ill-discipline they showed when defending their 14-point lead didn’t help. They made some costly errors and gave away some crucial penalties. This loss effectively eliminated the Titans from finals contention, as they now sit 10 points behind the Broncos (eighth) with six games left.
INJURIES ADD MORE PAIN TO TITANS WOES
The loss was soured further for the Titans with a few of their key players picking up injuries. The big one was Jai Arrow, who seemed to aggravate his existing knee injury in the first tackle of the game. He was able to get his knee heavily strapped, but was noticeably playing through the pain and looked slower than usual the rest of the game. We could see him miss game time in the near future if this turns out to be more than a niggle. Another big loss came in the second half, when Brimson left the field heavily concussed. He too will need to be monitored over the next week, and depending on the severity of this head knock, may be forced to sit out next week’s game against the Warriors.
FITZGIBBON PROVES HIS WORTH IN RETURN FROM SUSPENSION
Fitzgibbon has not played for the past few weeks, due firstly to an injury and secondly to a suspension. He has been an attacking weapon for the Knights all year, and has managed to score a lot of tries playing on both the left and right edges, outside both Ponga and Pearce. When the Knights were trailing by 14 points midway through the second half, Fitzgibbon stepped up. His late footwork and his ability to find holes in the defense caused big headaches for the Titans. His try in the 55th minute sparked the comeback; along with Daniel Saifiti, Herman Ese’ese and Mitch Barnett, he helped win the battle of the forwards late in the game.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 30
Tries: Barnett 2, Meaney, Fitzgibbon, Kenny-Dowall
Goals: Sio 5/6
Drop Goals: N/A
GOLD COAST TITANS 24
Tries: Don 2, Fotuaika, Sami
Goals: Gordon 4/5
Drop Goals: N/A
Newcastle Knights: 1 Nick Meaney, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Cory Denniss, 4 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 5 Nathan Ross, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 17 Jacob Lillyman, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Aidan Guerra, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 16 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
Interchange: 8 Josh King, 13 Herman Ese’ese, 14 Jamie Buhrer (c), 15 Chris Heighington
Gold Coast Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Konrad Hurrell, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 AJ Brimson, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Keegan Hipgrave, 13 Jai Arrow
Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Moeaki Fotuaika, 16 Jack Stockwell, 18 Leilani Latu