By Andrew Stark at St Johns Oval
The Newcastle Knights have guaranteed themselves a finals berth following their 26-12 victory over the New Zealand Warriors at a drizzly St John’s Oval, Charlestown.
Not having tasted defeat since early July, the Knights have boasted a settled line up of late and with plenty of big game experience in their side, they look to be genuine contenders for the 2014 VB NSW Cup.
The opening quarter of this top eight clash produced a see sawing stalemate as both packs ripped in with neither defence hinting at so much as a backward step.
The scoreboard remained wholly uninvolved until the 21st minute when a rushing left edge attack included Clint Newton who ran onto a Michael Dobson flat ball; the Novocastrian veteran dragging a swag of defenders with him as he barrelled over for the opening try.
The home side were somewhat fortuitous to extend their lead on the half hour when an attacking Warriors set ended with Knights fullback Honeti Tuha cleaning up a grubber and streaking 85 metres up field for a twelve point lead.
Tuha was a late inclusion for Newcastle following Nathan Ross’ failed fitness test and the elevated custodian made every post a winner with a polished 80 minute display.
The final quarter hour of the half saw the Warriors steadily ratchet up an unhealthy error rate; a perfect example being the 37th minute line drop out which sailed over the western touchline. Michael Dobson slotted the subsequent gift and the Knights led 14-0 at the break.
Clint Newton was over for his second try of the afternoon just seven minutes into the second half when he raced through to claim a well weighted Michael Dobson grubber kick. Brenton Horwood’s slashing bust up centre field on the previous play setting up the polished Dobson/Newton conclusion.
The game was then all but decided in the following set when a last play spread put Tuha outside his defender; the head geared fullback linking with right winger Josh Mantellato who in turn flicked it back inside to James Elias for a sparkling, 55 metre Newcastle try. Elias had only been on the paddock for a moment and his side now led 26-0 with a full half hour of the game to play.
Sadly for the home crowd the Knights lost their edge somewhat from this point on, the Kiwi men finishing full of running as the mid-afternoon drizzle kicked in. The final three tries of the contest all fell to New Zealand; Dominique Peyroux from dummy half in the 55th minute, Ken Maumalo on the end of a crisp backline in the 65th minute and a mad, last tackle specky in the 72nd minute that featured a couple of chip kicks, an ‘oranges’ play and lashings of ‘hot potato’ throughout.
The movement starred Steve Waetford and Carlos Tuimavave; culminating in Jarrod Tua spearing into the dressing shed corner for the try. Unfortunately for the visitors, all of their tries remained unconverted enabling Newcastle’s lead to remain well out of reach.
The Knights take on Manly at the Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground in Round 24 with genuine designs on a top four spot whilst New Zealand host a desperate Newtown; the Jets fighting for their season after a shock loss to the Eagles.
Newcastle Knights 26 (C Newton 2, J Elias, H Tuha tries; J Mantellato 3, M Dobson 2 goals) def. NZ Warriors 12 (K Maumalo, J Tua, D Peyroux tries) at St Johns Oval.