Newcastle outlasted a determined Canterbury side in the first game of Super Saturday Magic Round edition. A modest crowd of 12,646 watched Newcastle win their third game in a row.
Newcastle went into the game riding high after their first back-to-back wins of the season and looked determined to continue the streak; after a fast start by the Knights Kayln Ponga looked to use his trade mark ‘skip to the outside’ and put centre Hymel Hunt through. The Dogs’ defence was able to hold Hunt out but only a couple of plays later off an attacking scrum, Ponga and Hunt put on the same play, this time to good effect as Hunt crossed the line untouched for the opening points.
Newcastle continued to dominate field position and the lion’s share of the ball; the pressure finally tolled on the Bulldogs as Mitchell Pearce chased his own grubber kick after it bounced off Aiden Tolman, he toed it ahead and beat former Knights teammate Nick Meany to the ball – this gave the Knights a 12-0 lead. The Bulldogs tried their best to turn the tide but the huge defensive load they had to endure in the early exchanges left them fatigued going into the final minutes of the first half; Canterbury couldn’t hold them out as Lachlan Fitzgibbon burst through a Jack Cogger tackle to score his first try of the year in his 50th NRL match.
Newcastle looked as though they were cruising with a 16-0 halftime lead and the second half started much like the first with the Knights controlling the game, but just as they looked like they were about to cross again for their forth try, winger Remis Smith came up with the big play and intercepted a Pearce pass to not only save a try but go the length of the field to score and get the Bulldogs back into the game. From this point on the game turned and it was the Bulldogs who were to control the flow of the match and look more dangerous.
Canterbury looked to have scored through Kieran Foran after he beat a couple of defenders to score, but the try was called back via the Bunker after Adam Elliot had been deemed to have obstructed Mitch Barnett. The disappointed was short lived for Canterbury as they scored off the next set after a nice cut-out pass from Foran found Will Hopoate in space and over in the corner, after Meaney converted from the sideline it was game on with the Knights’ lead down to just six points.
But despite the Bulldogs having plenty of chances they were unable to capitalise and after Pearce won the race to a lose ball in the last two minutes the game was over as Ponga put the icing on the cake, beating Foran to run away for a match-sealing try. The Bulldogs would feel hard done by after Pearce looked to have knocked on, but the referees didn’t see it that way. The win sends Newcastle to ninth place whilst the Bulldogs remain rooted to the bottom.
Klemmer faces his old side
After a much-publicised exit from his junior club the Bulldogs, David Klemmer enjoyed a fairly low-key return against his former side. The fact the game was played in Brisbane and not in Sydney might have spared Klemmer some heat, but he was always going to face some fire on the field from his old mates. After coming together early with Dylan Napa (the man who replaced him), Klemmer got into his usual stride, putting out solid numbers and while he did get hammered by Sauaso Sue towards the end of the game, it was Klemmer who had the last laugh, taking home the two competition points.
Try saver game changer
Reimis Smith is still fairly new to the NRL and although he’s been playing in a side that’s often finished second best, Smith has showed his ability to come up with the big play when it’s needed. With Newcastle dominating the first 50 minutes of the game they looked certain to score as they attacked the short side with numbers, but despite being outnumbered and under attack, Smith was able to hold his composure and take the intercept off Pearce. As he sprinted away to score the Bulldogs’ first Smith had both saved and turned the game in one play.
Knights defence aims up
Taking into consideration that they were playing the 16th placed side the Knights can still take away lots of encouragement from their impressive defensive display; despite controlling the majority of the first half the Knights were asked to defend their line for four sets in a row. After Foran and Cogger both forced line drop outs the Knights also gave away two penalties, but despite the pressure building their defence stood strong and held out the Bulldogs. Some last-ditch scramble defence in the final ten minutes also would have pleased Nathan Brown as his side was able to stop a fast-finishing Bulldogs side.
Milestones and familiar faces
There were quite a few players going into this game with a little extra motivation with some players facing their former side for the first time, whilst a couple of Knights players brought up milestones in this game. Bulldogs pair Jack Cogger and Nick Meaney had quiet games as they faced the Knights for the first time, whilst as mentioned Klemmer had a solid game in his first against the Bulldogs. Lachlan Fitzgibbon brought up his 50th career match with style crossing for a try, although Edrick Lee’s 100th game was soured with an ankle injury.
Newcastle Knights 22
Tries: Hymel Hunt, Mitchell Pearce, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Kalyn Ponga
Goals: Ponga 3/4
Drop Goals: N/A
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 10
Tries: Reimis Smith, William Hopoate
Goals: Nick Meaney 1/2
Drop Goals: N/A
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: 1 Nick Meaney, 2 Jayden Okunbor, 21 Marcelo Montoya, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Jack Cogger, 19 Kieran Foran, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Jeremy Marshall-King, 10 Dylan Napa, 11 Josh Jackson, 16 Adam Elliott, 23 Chris Smith. Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Danny Fualalo, 17 Sauaso Sue, 22 Ofahiki Ogden.
Newcastle Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Edrick Lee, 3 Hymel Hunt, 21 Jesse Ramien, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Tim Glasby. Interchange: 4 Sione Mata’utia, 14 Kurt Mann, 15 Herman Ese’ese, 16 James Gavet.