2023 NRL Round 16: Roosters 18, Knights 16

The Knights welcomed the Roosters to a record crowd at the McDonald Jones Stadium for a battle between 13th and 14th in the ladder as Newcastle looked to make a play to eliminate their nearest rivals for a spot in the top eight.


Sydney Roosters 18
Tries: (3) Nat Butcher 8th; Joseph Manu 15th; Daniel Tupou 33rd
Goals: (3) Luke Keary 9th, 17th; Sandon Smith 39th

Newcastle Knights 16
Tries: (3) Dominic Young 3rd, 54th; Bradman Best 68th
Goals: (2) Jackson Hastings 5th, 69th

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A record crowd welcomed the pre-season favourites to the McDonald Jones Stadium, as the visitors looked to push away from the Newcastle Knights in the ladder, who sit just a point behind the Sydney Roosters.

The Roosters continued their lacklustre starts to the season but were undone by a kick ricochet early on that fell to Kalyn Ponga and allowed the Knights to break. Ponga collected the diverted kick and evaded weak defence to feed Dom Young who dotted down under the sticks untouched.

A Knights error provided the Roosters with ideal field position, off the back of which Sandon Smith broke through to offload to Nat Butcher who scored under the sticks.

Luke Keary knocked in straight off the kick off to give the Knights a prime attacking set, from which the Knights forced a knock on with a near interception from Smith. Off the scrum, the home side got a penalty and attacked the line once more to no avail. The Roosters tried their arm the other end soon after, but the Knights, defence prevailed.

The Roosters took a second try from range soon after, with Sitili Tupouniua putting Joey Manu in behind the ruck to go over close to the sticks.

A forward pass gave Newcastle prime attacking position but the Roosters’ archetypal defence held out the Knights. They were gifted another opportunity soon after however, with a ball plant at the ruck but the home side spilled the ball 10 metres out from the Roosters’ goal-line for a let off.

It was another Roosters error from the ensuing scrum that would give the Knights a chance to level with a loose carry falling to the arms of Dane Gagai who fed Dom Young to score in the corner. Deemed as a double knock-on and scrubbed off, the Roosters were given a reprieve to exit.

Luke Keary was taken off soon after with a suspected fractured jaw from the defensive effort. The visitors appeared unaffected with Drew Hutchinson and Smith guiding their side to a goal-line drop-out just shy of 10 minutrs before the half time break. Off the back of which Manu spurned an attacking opportunity.

The Knights gifted Manu another opportunity to attack with an error exiting their 20 metres, off the back of which the Roosters shifted to the left for Daniel Tupou to score in the left-hand corner. Smith failed to convert and the Roosters led 16-6 with five minutes until half-time.

Another interesting call ruled Enari Tuala pushing the ball towards his line off a high ball as a knock on and the Roosters were gifted another set attacking the Knights’ line. Off the back of which Manu was caught high in an ugly fashion by Jack Hetherington, though despite Manu not staying down to milk the penalty a review saw Hetherington put on report.

The Roosters appeared to make the Knights pay however, with a shift to the left after a number of ad lib plays just shy of half time and Hutchinson crashed over for a given try only to be overturned – obviously – by the Bunker.

Grant Atktins dialed in on the Knights’ exit straight after and awarded the Roosters an offside penalty, from which Smith consolidated and excellent half with a penalty conversion to put his side 18-6 in the lead.

A horror start to the second half for the home side with Young losing the ball gave the visitors another chance to attack the Knights’ line straight off the kick-off, but Tyson Gamble saved his side with an assured gather of a loose ball to exit, off the back of which Tupou knocked down an attacking shape down the left to give the home side an attacking set.

A cynical ruck penalty slowed the attack but allowed the Knights six shots at the Roosters’ line, from which the home side couldn’t convert. The Roosters exited and an incredible run from Ponga set the Knights up to score but a number of flustered offloads near the try-line were thwarted by excellent Roosters cover defence.

Newcastle looked likely again through Ponga but were stopped by dogged cover defence once more, off the back of which the Roosters launched an attack of their own and turned over the ball in the Newcastle 10 metres to win back the arm wrestle.

The two sides traded sets before Ponga set up another try down the right edge to Young to bring the score to 18-10 to the Roosters.

With the Knights back into the arm wrestle, they launched shape down the Roosters’ right edge but the Tricolours remained defensively stout. The crowd lifted their side and Bradman Best answered the call, gathering a loose ball to run 70 metres under the sticks. Jackson Hastings converted to cut the margin to two points.

The Roosters however, responded with staunch defence and the two sides began to grind for field position with under 10 minutes to play. The Knights endeavoured to get into the Roosters’ half for a two-point drop goal or a try but exceptional Roosters defence kept them out, and a rushed play of the ball with two minutes to go gifted the Roosters attacking possession 15 metres out.

Egan Butcher massacred the late attacking set with a knock-on but soon made amends with a late and desperate strip to put the game to bed for the deserving visitors.


Embed from Getty Images

3 – Joseph Manu (Roosters)
2 – Kalyn Ponga (Knights)
1 – Sandon Smith (Roosters)

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