THE Knights hope they can carry the confidence gained from their 32-6 upset victory over defending NRL premiers Manly at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night into consecutive crucial away games against the Warriors and Raiders on the next two weekends.
In one of the upsets of the season, the Knights registered their biggest and best win this year and inflicted the biggest loss Manly have suffered in their title defence.
Newcastle’s six-tries-to-one victory over the Sea Eagles and other weekend results left the Knights in 12th position on 18 points, four adrift of eighth-placed Wests Tigers (22), with seven games remaining.
The next of those is against the ninth-placed Warriors (20) at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, then the Knights back up eight days later in the national capital against the 13th-placed Raiders (18).
Knights coach Wayne Bennett said he and his players were giving their finals prospects no more regard after the victory over Manly on Saturday as they did after Souths beat them 34-14 at ANZ Stadium eight days ago. That came after successive wins against the Tigers and Eels.
‘‘My answer this week is the same as last week. Nobody’s counting anything, we’re just trying to be the football team we want to be,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘For three out of four weeks, we’ve played pretty fair football. It would have been nice if it was four out of four, but three out of four is pretty good.
‘‘We go to next month and, as Danny [Buderus] said, we’ve got a couple of tough games in front of us now and we need to aim up in those and give ourselves a chance.’’
Wingers James McManus and Aku Uate scored two tries each for the Knights, who led 10-0 at half-time and 22-0 midway through the second half against a Manly side flattened by a flu virus and injuries to brothers Brett and Glenn Stewart.
Bennett was impressed with his first taste of the famous Newcastle-Manly rivalry and said the players responded to the challenge of playing well when they had to.
‘‘It was a big game for them here ... because of the rivalry between the two clubs, and they knew that they had to aim up, and they did,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘They showed that wonderful spirit they do have.’’
Buderus said the players were motivated to do well against their traditional rivals from Sydney’s northern beaches but could not rely on emotion to pull them through overseas and interstate in the next two weeks.
‘‘Any win for us at the moment is pretty good. We changed a few things this week, and on the back of last week [against Souths] we were very disappointed but the spirit was there tonight,’’ Buderus said at the post-match media conference.
‘‘We’ve got a tough month. We’re over in New Zealand next week then down to Canberra, then we’ll reassess things after that. We’ll have two away games and see where we’re at.
‘‘Probably a lot of emotion went into tonight but it’s about consistency.
‘‘Emotion can sometimes flatten you out as well.
‘‘We’ll come back in on Monday and look ahead. We’ve got to enjoy these wins, with the season that we’ve had, but we’ve got to dust ourselves off again for the Warriors because it’s going to be a tough game over there.’’
Manly missed Brett and Glenn Stewart with hamstring and knee injuries respectively, then Steve Matai, one of several players affected by flu, withdrew before kick-off.
But Manly coach Geoff Toovey, another victim of their flu epidemic, said that was not why the Sea Eagles lost.
‘‘Every team’s got excuses, but we’re not going to use that,’’ Toovey said.
‘‘I think we had a team capable of winning the match ... despite the late changes and what-not, and again I thought we had enough opportunities in the first half to put some points on but we just lacked that structure to get us over the line.
‘‘There were opportunities there but we didn’t take advantage of them.’’
● A late field goal to Manly half Josh Drinkwater gave the Sea Eagles a 17-16 victory in the NYC curtain-raiser on Saturday. It was Newcastle’s fifth straight loss.
The Knights suffered a 46-32 loss to former teammate Richie Fa’aoso and the Cronulla Sharks in the NSW Cup game at Henson Park on Saturday.