The defending premiers, Newcastle Knights, slumped to their third straight loss to open the season, suffering an ugly 42-16 defeat at the hands of a powerful Mounties side.
Expectations of victory were high in Newcastle when Jaelen Feeney was named in the side shortly before kick off but it was to no avail for a Knights side that failed to fire for much of the afternoon.
Mounties returned to the winners’ circle with their second win behind impressive performances from Man of the Match, Sisa Waqa, Mitch Barnett and halves duo, Lachlan Croker and Cameron Phelps.
With Feeney determined to return to form and reclaim his NRL spot, it was an indifferent performance for a Knights side desperate for their first win.
It wasn’t the ideal start with a dropped bomb gifting Mounties possession metres out from the try line as prop Luke Bateman scored a simple try to open proceedings 6-0 in Mounties favour after 10 minutes.
Newcastle’s bad start became worse quickly after, conceding back-to-back tries to trail 12-0 after 13 minutes. Zac Santo connected with Sisa Waqa who grounded a well-placed grubber kick in the right corner.
The Knights responded to cut the deficit to 12-6 with 16 minutes before halftime with Will Pearsall wrestling his way over the try line. However, repeated errors proved costly as Newcastle botched a number of opportunities before the break.
Mounties made them pay for another mistake, capitalising from close range to extend their lead to 18-6, seven minutes from halftime. Eddie Aiono continued his strong early-season form with a classy finish to a well-rehearsed backline movement for the try down the left sideline.
To their credit, the Knights tried hard in the second half but lacked execution, trailing 20-6 two minutes after the break.
The match was effectively over when Croker scored under the posts for Mounties to seize an insurmountable 26-6 lead with 25 minutes left. In a strong showing, Crocker solidified his NRL debut from last week, providing an exciting glimpse of his future potential for the Canberra Raiders in the NRL.
Mounties added three more tries to Jarrad Kennedy, Kato Ottio and Waqa who clinched his second for the match.
Late consolation tries to James Elias and Danny Kerr helped Newcastle earn a more respectable 42-16 final score line.
While Mounties enjoy a wholly satisfying victory, Matt Lantry’s side will go back to the drawing board in urgent need of answers before travelling to Ringrose Park to take on a firing Wentworthville Magpies side next Sunday and avoid an 0-4 record to start the season.
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