Brendan Wood reviews the Newcastle Knights tough 10-point win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to kick-off Magic Round.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6
Tries: Josh Addo-Carr (21)
Goals: Matt Burton (29)
Newcastle Knights 16
Tries: Edrick Lee (15), Bradman Best (47), Adam Clune (76)
Goals: Kalyn Ponga (7, 77)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Kicking off Magic Round, it was the magic boot of Matt Burton that gave the Bulldogs the early advantage. His spiralling bomb forced Kalyn Ponga back into his own in-goal for a line drop-out.
However, the greasy conditions made ball security tricky for the Bulldogs as they coughed up possession. After being let off, the Knights got on the board through a penalty goal right in front, when Leo Thompson was lifted above the horizontal.
Another penalty had the Knights back on the attack quickly, but the Bulldogs defence held firm. Again it was Matt Burton forcing a line drop-out, but ball security let them down again as Burton knocked-on.
Gifted an opportunity, the Knights grabbed the first try. Kalyn Ponga got the ball to Bradman Best, who stood strong in a tackle and offloaded for Edrick Lee to find the line.
In their first set following points, the Knights were caught offside which piggybacked the Bulldogs out of trouble. With a renewed opportunity to attack, the Bulldogs wouldn’t be denied. Matt Burton’s short kicking game was on show this time, dabbing a grubber into the in-goal for Josh Addo-Carr to race through and score.
Another booming bomb from Burton had Kalyn Ponga under pressure again. An error soon followed, which got the Bulldogs into position to force a penalty out of the Knights. The Bulldogs opted to take the two points to level the scores at 6-6.
The remainder of the half saw both sides trade attacking sets, but neither could execute well enough to grab the lead before the break.
HALF-TIME: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6 Newcastle Knights 6Embed from Getty Images
A kick out on the full from Kyle Flanagan started the second half on a sour note for the Bulldogs. The Knights benefited immediately, as they looked to have scored a try through a charging run from Daniel Saifiti. However, the bunker reviewed and found Josh Jackson was obstructed in the lead up.
Despite having a try overturned, the Knights had all the momentum and quickly got another chance. This time, the Bulldogs defence raced up on Kalyn Ponga, which created a big overlap and Ponga got the ball to Bradman Best who scored untouched.
To make matters worse for the Bulldogs, they lost back rower Corey Waddell to concussion after he was knocked out attempting a low tackle on Mitch Barnett.
With Newcastle holding a slim lead, the game turned into an arm-wrestle as both sides failed to take the game by the scruff of the neck. The Bulldogs struggled to make metres and couldn’t get inside the Knights 20. The Knights on the other hand went close to scoring on a few occasions but errors stopped them short.
The deadlock looked to be broken when Pasami Saulo dived on an Adam Clune grubber. However, the bunker once again overturned the Knights as Saulo knocked-on when grounding the ball.
With fatigue setting in for the Bulldogs, the Knights finally landed the finishing blow to put the game outside a converted try. Adam Clune floated across field and changed direction quickly, which caught the Bulldogs napping. He sliced through a big gap and scored a crucial try to extend the lead to 10.
The margin proved too big to overcome for the Bulldogs, as the final few minutes saw the Knights hold on to record an ugly but much needed win.
FULL-TIME: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6 Newcastle Knights 16
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights), 2 pts – Mitch Barnett (Newcastle Knights), 1 pt – Matt Burton (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
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