From bitter Grand Final defeat to premiership glory, the Newcastle Knights avenged last year’s Grand Final loss by claiming the 2015 VB NSW Cup Premiership.
The Knights stormed from seventh place to book their return to the premiership decider and upset Grand Final favourites Wyong Roos 20-10.
Kerrod Holland and Honeti Tuha had an explosive impact on their left side of the field, scoring four tries between them and making it tough for Roos’ defenders Brendan Elliot and Nathan Smith.
Tuha received man of the match honors for his hat-trick heroics, in a match that had a lot of feeling in it early on – with Jake Mamo and Jono Ford being sin-binned early for their involvement in a mid-field scuffle.
The script was written perfectly for retiring veteran Clint Newton, who will captain his side one more time in the NRL State Championship against the Ipswich Jets next Sunday.
Newton says he and the Knights will concentrate on Ipswich later in the week, but he is looking no further ahead than bringing the VB NSW Cup trophy to Newcastle.
“I think the amount of resolve these blokes have shown, I can’t say enough how much I’m proud of them. They’ve been fantastic and this will be one that I remember for a very long time,” said Newton.
“[Ipswich] are a great footy side, we’ll worry about them through the week. I’ve got a lot of respect for the Walker brothers as coaches, so we’ll just enjoy this and bring the trophy back to Newcastle – we can’t wait. I’m just so proud of these blokes.”
The Roos got on the board first through Nathan Smith, who muscled his way over the line after receiving a Tyler Cornish bullet-like cutout pass that put him through a small gap.
Jack Siejka pounced on an Omar Slaimankhel grubber the following set after being marched up field thanks to a Danny Levi high-tackle, but the video ref judged the ball was not properly grounded.
Tuha opened the Knights’ account immediately afterwards, thanks to a beautiful Carlos Tuimavave cutout pass to Kerrod Holland, which created a two-on-one for the try-scorer to go over untouched.
The Knights made it back-to-back tries after a perfect Lachlan Fitzgibbon offload put Jaelen Feeney in space, who then passed it for a supporting Holland to run away and take a 10-6 lead.
The match had a fiery opening, but massive dramas began to unfold when Mamo and Ford were sent to the sin bin for their unnecessary involvement in what was the third scuffle of the game without a punch being thrown.
An amazing individual try to Tuha followed, as he broke through the defensive line from the middle of the field, and beat a further four defenders to plant the ball down in the left corner and increase the Knights’ lead to 14-4 – which was the halftime score.
Jacob Saifiti thought he had scored 10 minutes into the second-half, but the video-ref ruled Abraham Papalii grounded the ball first.
It mattered little however, because off the dropout set, Holland broke into open space and passed for Tuha to showcase his freakish finishing ability by tiptoeing the sideline and planting the ball down for his hatrick.
The Roos were beginning to build momentum, and Papalii was headed for the left corner before the previous tap-on was ruled to have gone forward.
A clever and skillful double-pump from Slaimankhel put Smith over for his second try as the Roos decreased their deficit to 20-10 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
That was the last try of the game, which meant the Knights sent Newton out with a fairytale finish, as well as the many travelling fans home with something to cheer about.
Newcastle Knights 20 (H Tuha 3, K Holland tries; Holland, G Ndaira goals) bt Wyong Roos 10 (N Smith 2 tries; T Cornish goal)