Brendan Wood reviews the Tigers vs Knights at Leichhardt Oval. Here’s how the game went.
|5th||Try – Enari Tuala (Knights)||Knights 4-0|
|10th||Penalty Try – Mitchell Barnett (Knights)||Knights 10-0|
|14th||Try – David Nofoaluma (Tigers)||Knights 10-6|
|24th||Try – Kurt Mann (Knights)||Knights 16-6|
|35th||Goal – Kalyn Ponga (Knights)||Knights 18-6|
|40th||Try – Corey Thompson (Tigers)||Knights 18-12|
|44th||Try – Edrick Lee (Knights)||Knights 22-12|
|48th||Try – Josh Reynolds (Tigers)||Knights 22-18|
|50th||Try – Kalyn Ponga (Knights)||Knights 26-18|
|59th||Try – Luciano Leilua (Tigers)||Knights 26-24|
|64th||Try – Mitchell Pearce (Knights)||Knights 32-24|
|68th||Try – Enari Tuala (Knights)||Knights 38-24|
|77th||Try – Connor Watson (Knights)||Knights 42-24|
The Knights were the first to trouble the scorers early when Mitchell Pearce put up an attacking bomb for Edrick Lee. He tapped the ball back for Enari Tuala to regather and score. It wasn’t long before Newcastle made the Tigers pay again.
Jayden Brailey put a grubber into the in-goal which looked certain to be grounded by Mitchell Barnett, but Barnett was held back by Josh Reynolds. The referees ruled Barnett would have scored, so they awarded a penalty try, putting the Knights up 10-0 after just 10 minutes.
The Knights went on an attacking charge again, but this time the Tigers would take advantage. Kalyn Ponga threw a long ball intended for Edrick Lee, but it was intercepted by Tigers winger David Nofoaluma. He raced 90 metres to score and get the Tigers back within a converted try.
The Tigers wrestled the momentum back after this intercept with a few repeat sets on the Knights line. After turning the Tigers away, the Knights turned defence into attack when Lachlan Fitzgibbon made a linebreak. He set up Kurt Mann who scored untouched to extend the lead to 10 points once again.
The Knights further extended their lead to 18-6 with a penalty goal to Kalyn Ponga just before half time. Just as it looked like this would be the half time score, Tigers halfback Josh Reynolds created an opportunity when he stepped through some tired Knights defence. He was able to offload to Corey Thompson who scored right on half time to send the Tigers into the break trailing the Knights by six.
The second half started almost the same as the first. Mitchell Pearce put up an attacking bomb for Edrick Lee once again, who this time leapt above the Tigers to take the ball uncontested and score untouched.
Just five minutes later, the Knights coughed up the ball coming out of their own end and Tigers hooker Billy Walters scooped up the loose ball. He drew the defence and put Josh Reynolds into open space, who raced away to score and cut the lead back to six.
Off the very next kick-off, the Tigers allowed the ball to bounce and Billy Walters was forced back into the in-goal by the Knights. In their first set following the drop-out, Jayden Brailey went down the short side for Kalyn Ponga to slice through the Tigers fragile defence for another easy try.
However, the momentum swung quickly yet again when Adam Doueihi brought a kick return back. He threw a long pass to Corey Thompson who beat a defender and raced 70 metres before being tackled. The Tigers were able to build some pressure off the back of this break by Thompson. Eventually they capitalised when Benji Marshall put Luciano Leilua over to cut the lead back to just two.
Following this try, the Knights went up a gear and opened the Tigers up quickly. Mitchell Pearce burst through the line to score after building some pressure in attack. Four minutes later Pearce was setting up another try, when he dabbed a kick into the in-goal for Enari Tuala to get his second try.
Connor Watson put the cherry on the cake when he spun through three defenders to score, putting the final nail in the Tigers coffin. The Knights running away convincing 42-24 winners.
The game was very much a see-sawing one, with both teams trading tries throughout the contest.
One of the biggest turning points of the first half was the intercept try to David Nofoaluma. The Knights were leading 10-0 at the time and looked as if they were about to score again. The try gave the Tigers the energy they needed to get into the rhythm of the game and keep the game close.
The second half was a disaster for the Tigers in defence, who leaked five tries in quick succession. At times it seemed all too easy for the Knights, who scored several uncontested tries through lazy defensive efforts from the home side. Tigers coach Michael Maguire will have his work cut out for him during the week to turn that performance around.
For the Knights, the second half was owned by Mitchell Pearce. His impact on the outcome of the game was bigger than any other player on the field.
He got the Knights off to an excellent start in the second half with a pin point accurate bomb for Edrick Lee. When the Tigers fought back to cut the lead to 26-24, he stepped up and scored an individual try to snuff out any hope the Tigers had at a pivotal moment in the game. Not long after that his kicking game was on show again, setting up another Enari Tuala try.
Wests Tigers: 1. Corey Thompson 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Joseph Leilua 4. Adam Doueihi 5. Robert Jennings 6. Benji Marshall 7. Josh Reynolds 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Billy Walters 10. Alex Twal 11. Luke Garner 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Elijah Taylor Bench: 14. Thomas Mikaele 16. Zane Musgrove 17. Chris Lawrence 18. Michael Chee-Kam.
Newcastle Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Herman Ese’ese Bench: 14. Connor Watson 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Tim Glasby 17. Aidan Guerra.