By Jamie Anderson at Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground
The Newcastle Knights took a significant step towards securing their spot in this year’s finals series by knocking over the Illawarra Cutters on Sunday.
With both the Jets and Roos posting wins on Saturday, the pressure was well and truly on the Knights to win as to keep a buffer between them and the chasing pack, and the home side didn’t let their fans down, winning 38-16.
The Knights named a strong side for the encounter that included former Kangaroo and Blues representative Akuila Uate while the Cutters lost Craig Garvey and Yaw Kiti Glymin from the side that they named earlier in the week.
It was the Cutters who got on the board first when from a scrum 10 metres out from their own line, they shifted the ball to their left hand side where the Knights were caught short, and Charly Runciman burnt off both Uate and Tahu before eventually offloading to Nathan Smith who finished off the length of the field effort.
The Knights responded some 10 minutes later though as a pass to Pat Mata’utia looked as though it was going to be spilt only for the centre to grasp onto the pass with his finger tips and then shovel the ball out to an unmarked Mantellato who dove over in the corner.
Some 25 minutes into the encounter, we were locked up at four apiece and looked set for a tight and hard fought encounter, however over the next 15 minutes, the home side asserted their authority on the match.
In the 29th minute Akuila Uate powered his way over the Cutters line only to be held up, but two tackles later Pat Vaivai managed to get over and ground the ball.
Then in the 38th minute Uate was once again in the thick of the action when he broke several tackles close to the Cutters line prior to offloading to Michael Dobson who did well to support the blockbusting winger and score under the posts.
Now leading 16-4 at the break, the home side could sniff victory, and when Tahu crossed early in the second half, their lead was out to 18 points.
The Cutters gave themselves a sniff when Sam Duggan ran to the line and popped a short ball to a rampaging Dan Hunt who did well to ground the ball despite the attention of several Knights defenders.
The Knights though would score three of the last four tries courtesy of Nathan Ross who returned from injury, Clint Newton and Josh Mantellato, who finished with two on the day.
Next weekend the Knights will tackle the Sharks at Hunter Stadium in a match that will have a major significance on both sides’ top four hopes while the Cutters host Mounties down in Shellharbour.
Newcastle Knights 38 (J Mantellato 2, C Newton, N Ross, T Tahu, P Vaivai, M Dobson tries; J Mantellato 4, M Dobson goals) def. Illawarra Cutters 16 (D Hunt, K Eather, N Smith tries; S Duggan 2 goals) at Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground.