PERHAPS the Knights should ask the NRL to schedule all their games on a Monday after they shocked Wests Tigers 38-20 at Hunter Stadium to register their first win in 56 days.
Trailing 14-0 after 23 minutes, the Knights responded with 38 straight points - their highest score this season - which included a Timana Tahu hat-trick of tries in 11 minutes either side of half-time.
Newcastle’s first home victory over the Tigers since 2004 ended their five-game losing streak and kept their faint finals hopes alive.
They probably still need to win at least eight of their last 10 games to have any chance, and hope one of the teams currently in the eight suffers a dramatic late-season collapse, but the effort, enthusiasm and enterprise Knights fans have been crying out for all season was there in spades.
Before tonight, Newcastle had not tasted success since beating Penrith 34-14 in their last Monday night game, at Hunter Stadium on April 30, but they looked anything but winners in the early going last night.
Knights supporters who booed the team off the field after their embarrassing 32-16 last-start loss to Canberra on June 9 must have been clearing their throats in anticipation when the Tigers raced to a 14-0 lead after 23 minutes.
Instead, they found their voice with the famous ‘‘New-ca-stle’’ chant midway through the second half as the Knights took a commanding 28-14 lead against one of the NRL title favourites.
In his most effective attacking game since arriving from the Dragons at the start of the season, fullback Darius Boyd threw the final pass for Newcastle’s first four tries as the Knights turned the 14-0 deficit into a 22-14 lead five minutes into the second half.
Dumped NSW winger Aku Uate scored the first try, courtesy of a benefit-of-the-doubt call by video referee Rod Lawrence in the 29th minute, then Tahu exploded with a hat-trick to move within one of Adam MacDougall’s all-time club record of 87.
Tigers skipper Robbie Farah, whose mother, Sonia, died nine days ago after a much publicised battle with pancreatic cancer, had an early impact.
Farah sat out the Tigers’ 42-28 loss to the Roosters at Leichhardt Oval the day his mother died, and after her funeral last Wednesday his involvement in the game was not confirmed until Sunday.
Scooting out of dummy-half in the eighth minute, Farah darted through a gap in Newcastle’s defensive line and fired a pass inside to his right to send centre Chris Lawrence across for a soft try under the posts and a 6-0 lead.
It was 12-0 three minutes later when Benji Marshall trickled a grubber kick behind Uate, who slipped, and Tuqiri pounced to score.
Marshall converted from the sideline then kicked a penalty goal from close to the posts in the 23rd minute when the Knights were caught off-side on the last tackle.
The Tigers were poised to extend their lead when referee Gerard Sutton obstructed James McManus’s view of a Tyrone Roberts pass from the scrum-base close to the Newcastle line and McManus knocked on.
The Knights howled in protest, but Sutton said ‘‘I can’t disappear’’ and awarded the Tigers a scrum feed.
Opposing props Ray Cashmere and Kade Snowden came to blows as the scrum packed and Sutton penalised Cashmere for the first infringement, gifting the Knights an easy escape from their red zone.
Jarrod Mullen had a try disallowed in the 28th minute because of a double knock-on from the bomb he launched, but from the scrum win, the Knights again attacked the Tigers’ left-edge defence and Boyd’s cut-out pass put Uate over and the Knights on the board at 14-4.
Boyd tipped on Mullen’s pass to Tahu five minutes later and the dual international stepped back in-field on an angled run to the posts to score.
Tahu crossed for his second in the 38th minute, then Boyd delivered his fourth try assist and Tahu touched down for his hat-trick in the 45th minute as the Knights extended their 16-14 half-time lead to 22-14.
Mullen fired a pass to second-rower Chris Houston in the 57th minute for Newcastle’s fifth try, which Roberts converted, then the hafback added penalty goals in the 65th and 73rd minutes. The 65th minute penalty was against Tigers centre Beau Ryan, who hung on too long to Mullen in a tackle and was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
Mullen and Tahu combined to send left winger James McManus over for a sixth Newcastle try in the 75th minute, which Roberts converted from touch, then the Tigers grabbed a consolation converted try to Masada Iosefa in the 79th minute.
The Tigers lost fullback Tim Moltzen to a hamstring strain in the eighth minute, and in the reshuffle Ryan played fullback and Joel Reddy came off the bench to partner winger Matt Utai on the right edge. The Knights took advantage by attacking that side and it paid dividends, with Tahu scoring three tries and McManus one.
The win meant the Knights reclaimed the Allan McMahon Shield, at stake in games between the Knights and Tigers, for the first time since 2006.
McMahon, one of five inaugural inductees to the Knights’ Hall of Fame earlier this year, was the club’s foundation coach, and as a player represented Australia from Balmain.