The Newcastle Knights overcame the Illawarra Cutters 34-26 in a thrilling game at Ziems Park, Corrimal.
The Knights got off to a flying start in wet conditions, posting 24 unanswered points in the first half hour before the Cutters came roaring back to score 26 unanswered points of their own. The Knights scored two late tries for the visitors to steal the points.
After just 6 minutes of play the Knights scored off a bomb with prop Joseph Tapine the scorer. Winger Kerrod Holland added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
The Knights doubled their lead after 14 minutes when a loose ball in the Cutters’ in-goal area was pounced upon by hooker Chad Redman for their second try. Holland made no mistake and his side enjoyed a 12-0 lead.
In testing conditions, it had been one way traffic for most of the first half but the Cutters finally got some decent field position until a long pass was intercepted by Knights centre Pat Mata’utia and he raced 85 metres to score a wonderful solo try.. Holland added the extras to make18-0 after 25 minutes.
The Knights continued to score freely and made it 24-0 when winger Honeti Tuha broke free down the left flank and drew Cutters fullback Justin Hunt fullback before feeding the ball to his halfback Jaelen Feeney to score a great try. Holland converted and the Cutters were in deep trouble trailing by four converted tries in wet conditions.
With six minutes left in the first half, the Cutters were desperate for points before halftime to stay in the contest and they came via Kiti Glymin as the Cutters exposed the Knights defence out wide to open their account and give themselves some hope for the second half. Shannon Crook missed the conversion and the Knights led 24-4 at halftime.
A half-time spray by Cutters coach Paul Stringer seemed to breathe new life into the home side and the Cutters were quick to add points in the second half, seemingly a different side than the one that leaked four tries in the opening 25 minutes.
In the 46th minute, Kiti Glymin dived over in the corner for his second of the match but again Crook couldn’t convert and his side trailed 24-8.
A simple try to Cutters forward Fraser Alcock under the posts gave his side belief and this time Crook converted for the Cutters to trail by just 10 points, with just over half an hour left in the match.
A Peter Mata’utia try in the 52nd minute narrowed the gap and Crook’s conversion made it 24-20 as the rain continued to tumble down.
The home side had all the momentum and applied plenty of pressure on the Knights defence as they searched for their next try.
On the hour mark, Cutters winger Tyron Cranston scored out wide after a Knights error to tie the score. Crook nailed the conversion for the Cutters to take a remarkable 26-24 lead after trailing 24-0.
But just three minutes from the end, a runaway try to Feeney reclaimed the lead for the Knights and despite Holland’s first miss of the afternoon, they led 28-26
In the dying stages, Knights five eighth Carlos Tuimavave made a long break as the Cutters struggled to get back onside with prop Joseph Tapine crashing over for his second try of the match.
Newcastle Knights 34 (Joseph Tapine 2, Jaelen Feeney 2, Pat Mata’utia, Chad Redman tries; Kerrod Holland 5 goals) bt Illawarra Cutters 26 (Yaw Kiti Glymin 2, Peter Mata’utia, Fraser Alcock, Tyron Cranston tries; Shannon Crook 3 goals)