Old rivals Newcastle and Manly re-acquainted themselves in a thrilling Round 1 clash in front of a packed McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle with the Knights claiming a Golden Point Victory thanks to a Mitchell Pearce field goal.
Newcastle fans have been eagerly anticipating season 2018 and the large home crowd didn’t have to wait long for something to cheer about as new halfback and captain Mitchell Pearce combined with exciting young star Kayln Ponga to put first points on the board for the Knights after just three minutes. But it didn’t take long for Manly to work themselves back into the game as they crossed out wide through Jorge Taufua.
Both sides traded tries in the first half and then again in the second before a late Daly Cherry-Evans penalty goal sent the game into extra time. Both Mitchell Pearce and Cherry-Evans came close to kicking field goals just shading the posts before Pearce got another chance and this time made no mistake to send Knights’ fans into wild celebrations.
New Knights Impress
With nine new players in Newcastle’s side including a totally new ‘spine’ it was of no surprise it was some of the Knight’s newest stars that shone the brightest. Whilst forwards Hermen Ese’ese, Jacob Lillyman and Aiden Guerra made plenty of metres through the middle it was the work of the spine that impressed the most with Pearce, Watson, Griffin and Ponga all involved in either scoring or setting up all the Knight’s tries, whilst Pearce also won the game with his Golden Point field goal.
Big Home Crowd
After suffering through three seasons without much to cheer about season 2018 couldn’t come quick enough for Knights fans with so much good news ebbing from the club in recent times the anticipation for this round 1 clash could be felt throughout the town. Over 23,500 people packed into McDonald Jones Stadium and it didn’t take long for the famous ‘Newcastle Newcastle’ chant to start-up, captain Mitchell Pearce credited the home crowd claiming it “sounded like a finals game” and “It (crowd) got us the win in the end”.
Despite being on the losing end both Jake and Tom Trbojevic had monster games showing why most experts have them both pencilled in for rep honours again this year. Despite getting through a mountain of work Jake still did his fair share of ball playing, whilst Tom was dangerous every time he touched the ball and caused the Knights defence headaches all night long.
Selection Headache for Brown
Nathan Brown has a nice dilemma on his hands at the Knights trying to choose which players to use in his ‘key positions’, after making the tough call to leave out Kiwi Test Hooker Danny Levi this week Brown again has another tough decision to make for next weeks match. Although Connor Watson was quiet at Five-Eighth he came into his own once he moved to hooker and the Knights looked more dangerous with Brock Lamb in the 6 role, Brown conceded in the post match press conference that Watson may be used in the utility role during the season.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“Going into the second period of extra time I thought both sides probably deserved a point” – Knights coach Nathan Brown
“I thought he was sensational, you can tell where he’s come from” – Brown talking about Knight’s hooker Slade Griffin who came to club from Melbourne Storm
“It was hard to take that one, it was almost like the script was written for them” – Manly coach Trent Barrett talking about the loss
“Just the bumps and bruises of round 1, the footy is back” – Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans
Newcastle Knights 19
Tries: Ponga, Griffin & Fitzgibbon
Goals: Ponga 3/3
Drop Goals: Pearce
Manly Sea Eagles 18
Tries: Taufua, Lane & Kelly
Goals: Cherry-Evans 3/4
Drop Goals: N/A
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Tautau Moga, 5 Nathan Ross, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Jacob Lillyman, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Mitchell Barnett, 14 Brock Lamb, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Daniel Saifiti
Sea Eagles: Tom Trbojevic, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Matthew Wright, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Akuila Uate, 6 Lachlan Croker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Apisai Koroisau, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13 Jake Trbojevic, 14 Lewis Brown, 15 Shaun Lane, 16 Frank Winterstein, 17 Kelepi Tanginoa