By Jamie Anderson at Morry Breen Oval
The Wyong Roos tasted heartbreak for the second time at home in as many weeks, going down 22-12 to the Knights, in a loss that leaves their finals ambitions languishing with a little over a month of the regular season remaining.
The Knights headed into this one knowing a win would put some four competition points between them and the Roos, and perhaps then only leave the Jets as any real danger in terms of challengers from outside the eight.
After taking some 70 minutes to get off the mark against the Warriors a week earlier, the Roos started much faster against the Knights when young Damon Goolagong crossed out wide for the home side. And with Kheirallah converting from close to the touch line, the home side had made the perfect start.
The Roos definitely made the brighter start of the two combatants and perhaps should have led by more after the opening quarter had it have not been for some scrambling defence by the Knights.
And despite being largely outplayed early doors, the Knights reduced the deficit to just two points when Matt Minto chipped over the top, regathered, and then put in another kick which was brillaintly grounded by former Roo, Josh Mantellato.
The Knights made it back to back tries in the 28th minute when Sam Mataora, who was one of the Knights best on the day, barged over from close to the line, and with Mantellato’s conversion, the Knights led it 10-6.
Wyong were desperately trying to retake the lead prior to half time and looked to have done so when a Jono Ford pass put Bernstrom over only for it to be called back after Ford’s ball was ruled to travelled forward.
But the home side wasn’t to be denied, and in the shadows of the half time break, a brilliant Mitch Williams pass put a rampaging Levi Pulu on a collision course with an undersized Honeti Tuha who was understandably no match for the hulking interchange forward.
Leading it 12-10 at the break, Wyong would have loved to had scored first in the second forty to afford themselves some breathing space, but after some 15 minutes, it was the visitors who retook the lead when a high ball wasn’t defused by the Roos and a series of short balls eventually found Michael Dobson who crossed out wide for Newcastle.
Things got even worse for Wyong when their inspirational captain, Mitch Williams, was taken from the field with what appeared to be a serious arm injury.
But for the second week running, the Roos found themselves chasing a small deficit with a man’s advantage after Toka Likiliki was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
But as the clock began to become Wyong’s biggest enemy, the Knights posted what were to be the final points of the game as yet another kick was not dealt with by the Roos and this time it was Honeti Tuha who was closest to the ball, and he scored the match sealing try.
The win sees the Knights remain in eighth spot but just four points behind the second placed Cutters while Wyong fall to tenth and will now find it very hard to force their way into the top eight before season’s end.
Next Saturday the Roos will tackle Wenty at Remondis Stadium at 10.40am in match that will be broadcast live on Fox Sports while the Knights return home to Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground on the Sunday for a mouth-watering clash with the Cutters.
Newcastle Knights 22 (S Mataora, J Mantellato, M Dobson, H Tuha tries; J Mantellato 3 goals) def. Wyong Roos 12 (D Goolagong, L Pulu tries; M Kheirallah 2 goals) at Morry Breen Oval.