Aaron Sutcliffe reviews the Round 24 opener between Newcastle and the Gold Coast. Here’s how the game went.
Tries: Kalyn Ponga (23), Mitchell Pearce (60)
Goals: Jake Clifford (25, 61, 71)
Field Goal: Mitchell Pearce (79)
Tries: Phillip Sami (4), David Fifita (37)
Goals: Jamal Fogarty (11, 38, 75)
Player of the Year PointsEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Mitchell Pearce (Newcastle Knights)
2 pts – Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights)
1 pt – Jayden Campbell (Gold Coast Titans)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
The stakes were high on Thursday night in the Sunshine Coast with Newcastle knowing a single point would secure their place in the finals and the Gold Coast knowing only a win would keep their top eight hopes alive ahead of the final round of fixtures next weekend.
The Titans raced out of the blocks to score the game’s first try after just four minutes when Beau Fermor broke the line before moving the ball onto to Phillip Sami who dotted down in the corner with Jamal Fogarty’s conversion attempt hitting the post.
Gold Coast stretched their lead to six points when Sauaso Sue tackled Jayden Campbell off the ball allowing Fogarty to kick a simple penalty in front of the posts.
The Knights responded with their first try on 23 minutes when Kalyn Ponga broke through the Titans’ defence to score his eighth try of the season with Jake Clifford adding the extras.
Adam O’Brien’s side were then denied by a crunching tackle by Moeaki Fotuaika on Connor Watson as the Knights lock tried to collect Ponga’s short pass close to the Titans’ try line.
The Gold Coast went back in front just before half-time when David Fifita showed his class to shrug off three opposition defenders and touch down for his 15th try of the campaign with Fogarty producing a sublime kick from the left touchline to add the extras.
The Titans held a slender lead heading into the break as they looked to give their top eight hopes a major boost and snap the Knights’ four-game winning run.
HALF-TIME: Newcastle Knights 6 Gold Coast Titans 12Embed from Getty Images
After both teams made a slow start to the second period, Mitchell Pearce produced a stunning 40/20 to move the Knights up-field only for Bradman Best to throw a forward pass from the resulting set of six.
Newcastle continued to search for a try to bring the scores level when another Pearce kick looked to cause the Titans problems only for Tyrone Peachey to expertly field the ball inside his own in-goal area and dive between two Knights players to avoid a drop-out.
The Knights’ pressure eventually paid off on the hour mark when Ponga released a short pass into Pearce who dove over close to the sticks to allow Clifford to kick a simple conversion to bring the scores level.
A late tackle from Jarrod Wallace gave Clifford the chance to edge Newcastle ahead for the first time in the match, successfully kicking the resulting penalty with nine minutes left to play.
However, a high tackle from Clifford – just a few minutes after kicking his side into the lead – allowed the Titans to draw level through Fogarty to set-up a blockbuster final five minutes.
The Gold Coast were first to try their luck with a field goal with Patrick Herbert’s attempt missing to the right of the posts and giving Newcastle the chance to run the ball back to the other end before the final hooter.
The Knights took that chance when the ball was worked to Pearce who held his nerve to kick the decisive field goal with just 10 seconds left on the clock.
The result means Newcastle have secured a seventh place finish for the second consecutive season and leaves the Titans’ top eight hopes hanging by a thread.
FULL-TIME: Newcastle Knights 15 Gold Coast Titans 14
to be advised
Match Review Committee
to be advised