By Nathan Beuman at Henson Park
The Newcastle Knights have managed to hold off a fast finishing Newtown Jets 28-26 at Henson Park, courtesy of a two try outing from winger Josh Mantellato.
Despite trailing by 14 points with only ten minutes remaining, the Jets crossed for two converted tries in four minutes to set up a nail biting finish in front of a strong crowd.
The Knights were the first to post points, when five-eighth Matt Minto put in a perfectly weighted grubber kick through for winger Josh Mantellato, who had all the time in the world to ground the ball down for his first four pointer of the afternoon.
Mantellato was unable to convert his own try from out on the left touchline, pushing it just to the left of the uprights to leave the score at 4-0 after seven minutes.
A break from Newtown prop forward Ryan Verlinden had the Jets in great field position, when Heath L’Estrange put in a kick along the ground for Jack Siejka, who had no trouble with the putdown.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho, who was promoted into the starting lineup pre-game, had no trouble with the conversion, putting the Bluebags up 6-4 after 15 minutes.
Having to defend back to back sets on their own line took its toll on the Jets big men, with Newcastle hooker Chad Redman diving over from dummy half next to the uprights, giving Mantellato an easy conversion attempt to put the Knights up by four with 14 minutes remaining before the half.
An error 25 metres out from the Jets own line had the home side under the pump once more, when Michael Dobson threw a dummy before crashing over next to the upright, giving Mantellato an easy kick at goal to extend the visitors lead out to 16-6 seven minutes from half time.
The Jets weren’t done with just yet though, with second rower David Harris stepping a Newcastle defender out on the left hand edge to cross with only seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
Taukeiaho was unable to convert the try after the siren sounded, sending the Knights in to the sheds with a six point buffer.
The Jets were the first team to register points in the second half, breaking the stalemate in the 52nd minute when a Taukeiaho flick pass set up an overlap out on the right hand flank, enabling Kurt Kara to cross for his second try in two weeks.
Once again, Taukeiaho’s conversion was waved away, leaving the Jets still two points in arrears at 16-14.
Just when it looked as though Newtown had worked their way back in to the game, two converted tries in the space of five minutes to Josh Mantellato and James Elias silence the crowd at Henson Park, putting the Knights up 28-14 with ten minutes remaining.
The Jets would not be deterred though, with Matt Evans and Samisoni Langi crossing for converted tries of their own in the 72nd and 76th minute to set up a grandstand finish.
This weekend the Knights return home to host the Bulldogs on Sunday while the Jets head to Leichhardt Oval on Saturday to face the Tigers.
Newcastle Knights 28 (J Mantellato 2, M Dobson, J Elias, T Randell tries; J Mantellato 4 goals) def. Newtown Jets 26 (D Harris, J Siejka, M Evans, K Kara, S Langi tries; S Taukeiaho 3 goals) at Henson Park.