The Western Suburbs Magpies continue to hold down top spot on the Intrust Super Premiership ladder, after withstanding a blistering start from the Newcastle Knights to record a come-from-behind 24-20 win at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Having trailed by 14 points after just 13 minutes, the Magpies, led by halves Tyson Gamble and Josh Drinkwater, were able to grind out a tough victory over a side still searching for its second win of the season. The Knights remain marooned in last spot despite Saturday's gallant effort.
Match: Magpies v Knights
Round 7 -
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
It was evident early on that the Knights wanted to utilise half Brock Lamb's kicking game - and he didn't disappoint, with Newcastle posting first points at the end of their first set of the match. Winger Thomas Cronan out-jumped Mahe Fonua to regather and put Pat Mata'utia over in the right-hand corner to score.
Soon after, the Knights extended their lead to 10 points, when Lamb's kick behind Fonua allowed Mata'utia to turn provider for Cronan. The centre produced a neat flick pass for his winger to dive over out wide.
The home crowd were further stunned just three minutes later when opposite winger Tom Hughes was sent on a 25-metre run down the eastern touch line, pushing the lead out to 14 in better than even time.
But the Magpies finally settled and opened their account midway through the first half after Gamble's grubber behind the defensive line enabled back-rower Sam McIntyre to ground the loose ball. With Drinkwater's conversion, the home side trailed by eight.
That gap was reduced to two after the Knights gifted an error to their opponents close to their own line, enabling the home side to score through Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu. Interchange player Bayley Sironen strolled through the heart of the Newcastle defensive line before finding his fellow interchange forward to score underneath the posts.
Lamb had an opportunity to double his side's slender lead after the half-time siren, but his missed attempt ensured the Knights would only lead 14-12 at the main break.
The start to the second half was a carbon copy of the first, except this time it would be the Magpies who would score off their first set of the half. Drinkwater's kick back inside found the goalposts and eluded Lamb, which instead allowed Gamble to regather and score. It gave Western Suburbs their first lead of the match.
A pivotal moment for the game looked to have arrived in the 52nd minute when referee Ryan Jackson banished Knights interchange forward Pasami Saulo to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
But despite being down a man, the Knights controlled possession beautifully deep inside Magpies territory and were rewarded with the hit-back try, when back-rower Sam Stone stormed onto a short pass to score from short range.
That joy was short-lived with Drinkwater again turning provider for the Magpies, albeit this time with the hands, throwing a looping long cut-out pass that enabled Fonua to stroll over in the left corner.
With the clock ticking down, a 40-20 from Brock Lamb gave the Knights one last shot to snatch the win - but it all came unstuck with prop Tyrone Amey dropping a simple pass as his side attacked the Magpies' line.
Next up for Western Suburbs is a local derby, when they come up against the Wentworthville Magpies next Sunday afternoon at Ringrose Park. The Knights, meanwhile, will take on the North Sydney Bears under lights at North Sydney Oval on Friday evening.
Western Suburbs Magpies 24 (S McIntyre, J Ratuvakacereivalu, T Gamble, M Fonua tries; J Drinkwater 4 goals) def Newcastle Knights 20 (P Mata'utia, T Cronan, T Hughes, S Stone tries; B Lamb, D Levi goals)