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A Josh Drinkwater-inspired Western Suburbs Magpies side has come from 16-0 down to record a thrilling 34-22 Round 2 Intrust Super Premiership NSW victory in sweltering conditions at a sun-baked Leichhardt Oval.

Brett Hodgson’s Magpies seemed down and out midway through the first half but creative playmaker Drinkwater and his side came from the clouds to snatch the game late and give them a two-from-two start to the 2018 season.

It was the Novocastrians, however, who started the game strongest, racing to a big lead early in the match. A mountain of possession in the opening 10 minutes eventually saw the Magpies’ defence crack, back-rower Brodie Jones backing over the tryline to cross for first points. Ken Sio’s conversion took Newcastle’s lead to six.

A shocker of a kick by Jack Cogger then, ultimately, saw the Knights stretch their lead. The wayward kick was collected by Harrison van Dartel, who found support in the shape of Christian Hazzard. The Knights’ five-eighth attracted a number of defenders before drawing the opponents and flicking beautifully for Brent Naden to cross.

Another Newcastle back-rower crashed over soon after the heat policy-enforced drinks break, Cogger finding a hard-charging Sam Stone just metres out. Sio’s second conversion of the afternoon took the “home” side’s lead to 16-0.

The Knights, however, would soon let the stranglehold slip. A dropped ball and back-to-back penalties saw Braden Robson shake-and-bake through the goal-line defence to crash over from just a couple of metres out.

Newcastle consolidated that error with another penalty straight after, and on the final play of their set the Magpies sent the ball high to the south-eastern corner of the ground. A try was eventually awarded to Mahe Fonua, the Knights’ lead cut to 16-10.

Wests’ comeback was complete just minutes into the second half, some great work by Drinkwater, initially a run before a deft kick into the in-goal area, saw Watson Heleta score. Drinkwater’s second conversion tied the sores at 16.

The Magpies hit the lead for the first time in the match after the Knights turned over possession. From the ensuing play, Wests shifted right through the backline, Taane Milne ending with the ball to step inside his opposite number to score. Drinkwater’s sideline conversion took the score to 22-16.

The Knights, however, weren’t going to roll over completely. A left-side shift found a jinking Cogger, who linked with Corey Dennis, who flung a beautiful pass to Sio to step his way into the tryline. The tryscorer’s conversion, with 20 minutes remaining, once again tied the match, setting the scene for a great finish.

It was Drinkwater who eventually proved the difference, slicing through the Knights line, breaking the deadlock by handing off to former NSW Origin prop Tim Grant to race 10 metres to cross the line.

With two-and-a-half minutes remaining  Robson crashed over from dummy-half, his second of the game. Drinkwater’s conversion took the score to 34-22.

The Magpies next week face another tough task in the form of last year’s grand-finalists Wyong in Channel 9’s Saturday fixture from Campbelltown, while the Knights search for their first victory of the year against Wentworthville at Ringrose Park on Sunday.

Western Suburbs Magpies 34 (B Robson 2, M Fonua, W Heleta, L Tali T Grant tries; J Drinkwater 5 goals) def Newcastle Knights 22 (B Jones 2, B Naden, K Sio tries; K Sio 3 goals)

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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