The Wests Tigers have recorded back-to-back wins in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, following a dominant 42-26 win over the Newcastle Knights at Leichhardt Oval.
In a slow start to the season, the hosts recorded their second win last week, beating Blacktown by eight points. The Knights, on the other hand, were looking to bounce back after last week’s disappointing loss to the Bulldogs in Cessnock. Newcastle were led by Trent Hodkinson, who was dropped from first grade duties for the second week in a row.
In a high-intensity start, the Knights found themselves with the better of the field position in the opening five minutes of the match, but came up empty handed. The visitors looked to have had the line wide open, but a one-on-one strip saved the Tigers.
When Wests finally got possession, a high kick brought about a mistake and they were soon on the prowl. But it was the same story for the Tigers who forced three repeat sets at the Newcastle end but could not capitalise.
The home side’s depth was tested early, with Jack Littlejohn leaving the field for a Head Injury Assessment.
Discipline was proving a concern for the Knights, with back-to-back penalties allowing Wests to set up camp on their line. It was only a matter of time before the defence cracked, with second-rower Kyle Lovett crashing over for a 6-0 lead.
Penalties again gifted the Tigers downfield and a fortunate bounce off his own grubber kick, Jordan Rankin extended his side’s lead to 12 in the 22nd minute.
The home side were taking control, making metres up field at will, and when centre Watson Heleta weaved his way through, the score was 18-0.
Needing to be the next to score, Newcastle had some luck off the kick-off with an error putting them at the right end of the field, and a few plays later Jacob Gagan found some space to score in the corner.
The Knights had a lucky escape inside the final six minutes of the half when Tom Hughes was lucky to prevent a try after dropping a high ball in his own in-goal. But their luck did not last long with Heleta strolling over for his second, as Wests took a 24-6 lead into half-time.
There were little chances early in the second half as both defences held strong. That was until an error from the Tigers off a Hodkinson cross field kick gave the Knights easy field position. The margin was again cut to 12 when Lachlan Fitzgibbon broke through a tackle from close range.
Another Wests mistake from the high ball, allowed Gagan to record his second of the afternoon, and get the red-and-blues to within eight.
The Knights appeared to have made it three tries in a row when Gagan regained a chip kick - only to throw the ball forward to teammates with the line wide open. The Tigers made them regret that missed opportunity, marching back downfield with Heleta finishing off to push the score out to 30-16 midway through the half.
Newcastle continued to have trouble containing Heleta who crossed for his fourth of the afternoon, and made the mountain for the Knights to climb almost impossible.
However, trailing 36-16, the visitors did not stop trying; a short kick off gave them possession and a cut-out ball from Hodgkinson allowed Hughes to hit back immediately in the corner.
But they could not continue that intensity in final 10 minutes, with Wests adding further to the pain when winger Nathan Milne pushed the margin out to 22 points.
There was a consolation try in the dying stages to Newcastle’s Fitzgibbon, who brought up his double, but it had little bearing on the result.
If the Panthers can beat Blacktown tomorrow afternoon, the Tigers are assured of moving off the bottom of the ladder.
Wests Tigers 42 (W Heleta 4, J Rankin, K Lovett, N Milone tries; J Rankin 7 goals) def Newcastle Knights 26 (J Gagan 2, L Fitzgibbon 2, T Hughes tries; T Hodkinson 3 goals)