The Wyong Roos have taken an important win to help their finals hopes, defeating the Newcastle Knights 26-16 at Hunter Stadium.
On a perfect Saturday afternoon in Newcastle, three unanswered tries in the first half proved to be the difference, with Mitch Frei and Dominic Reardon both putting in solid performances.
The Roos ran out close to as per program, with Chris Centrone being ruled out through injury and Kieren Gallagher his replacement. It was a different story for the Knights, however, who rung in a host of changes as a result of an NRL shake-up. The inclusion of Pauli Pauli, Akuila Uate and Pat Mata'utia was sure to boost the Knights' chances, despite missing usual halfback Will Pearsall.
It was a back-and-forth affair early in the game and Uate made his presence felt with a bone-rattling hit on Omar Slaimankhel. After 12 minutes it would be the Roos to break the deadlock via Kieran Gallagher. The stocky winger showed his pace to run down a masterful Luke Garner grubber, with Tyler Cornish adding the extras from out wide for a 6-0 advantage.
Minutes later it was Cornish's turn to put in a grubber, which was fumbled by the Knights' Ryan Walker and pounced on by Dominic Reardon. With Walker part of a late reshuffle to the custodian role, the tactic would be employed successfully as the game progressed.
The Roos wouldn't stop coming and with a Mitch Frei offload close to the tryline, another scoring opportunity arose. The Roos sent it to the left and Slaimankhel ultimately put Matthew Ikuvalu over to score the side's third.
The Knights threw everything at their opposition and twice came close to scoring through Ken Tofilau, but ultimately came up empty-handed. The score would remain 16-0 until the half-time break.
Five minutes into the second half it was Mitch Frei to extend Wyong's lead; a Zane Tetevano offload opened up some space, but Frei showed great strength to break the tackle and run 40 metres to score.
Almost immediately, however, Newcastle hit back. After fielding the high ball on his own 10 metre line, Walker dummied and beat four defenders to offload to Tom Hughes, who finished it off for a very classy try. Within two minutes, Hughes went back-to-back after a slick set play found an overlap in the Roos' defence. With the successful conversion, the Knights brought the score back to 20-12.
With a number of opportunities to both sides in the ensuing 20 minutes, neither side was able to cross the line until the 68th minute, when Reardon scored what was a soft try to bring up his double. After a certain Knights try was called back for a forward pass shortly after, the 14-point margin was looking to be a big ask.
Six minutes remained in the game when Newcastle reduced the difference with another slick try on the left wing. This time Tofilau was the beneficiary and did well to beat his man and score. The vital conversion was waved away, however, and it was 26-16 in the dying stages.
Uate fought valiantly and almost helped set up another, but after an ugly tackle the winger was helped from the field. Ultimately, the Roos were able to hold on for a 26-16 victory.
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