Knights charge into Dogs clash

IT was the Raiders’ turn to be booed off their home ground after the Knights routed the Raiders 36-6 at Canberra Stadium yesterday to climb to the edge of the top eight.

Newcastle’s third straight win, and fifth from their past six matches, means they are ninth on 22 points, the same as eighth-placed Gold Coast.

The Titans have a minus-two points differential to the Knights’ difference of minus-four.

The six-tries-to-one victory has set up a showdown with NRL leaders and title favourites Canterbury, who have won nine straight, at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.

The Knights continued their remarkable late-season revival, which began after they lost 32-16 to the Raiders in Newcastle on June 9.

That was their fifth straight defeat and frustrated fans vented with boos and jeers as players trudged from the field with their heads down.

Some Canberra supporters did likewise yesterday after the Jekyll-and-Hyde Raiders, who have thrashed the Storm and Sharks in away games in the past three weeks, again saved their worst for their own backyard.

‘‘I certainly wasn’t hoping for that much, but I was hoping we could get the job done,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘They weren’t off their game.

‘‘If you’re realistic about the way they played the first half, they played extremely well and scrambled in defence, but we were on our game as well and there was not much between the two teams.

‘‘I suppose mentally in the end, as happened to us when we played them last time, they got a scoreboard on us ...’’

Bennett was pleased with the way his players had responded to that low point but stressed neither he nor they were doing anything different to what they have been doing all season.

The wins have come, he said, because they had reduced the number of errors they were making and were playing with confidence.

‘‘You’re zero and five and you wonder where your season’s going, but I thought they’ve been tremendous since then,’’ he said.

‘‘They’ve just got a bit of confidence about themselves and they’ve got an idea how it kind of all works.

‘‘They’re all buying into it now ... and all the mistakes they were making, they’ve just eliminated those and playing some great football as well.’’

Left winger Kevin Naiqama scored in the sixth minute from an Alex McKinnon pass and Tyrone Roberts converted from the sideline for a 6-0 lead, but the Knights had to wait until the 37th minute to extend their lead, despite creating several scoring chances.

Taking advantage of an extra man after Raiders winger Sandor Earl was sin-binned for a professional foul, Roberts scooted into space and ran 60metres to score then converted his try from the sideline for a 12-0 half-time lead.

After Canberra coughed up the ball in their half, Naiqama scored his second try two minutes after the break to make it 16-0, then Darius Boyd crossed four minutes later for his first try in Newcastle colours and Roberts converted for 22-0.

Roberts kicked a penalty goal in the 56th minute after Raiders back-rower Joe Picker was reported for a head-slam tackle on Jarrod Mullen, then Boyd repaid the favour for Uate to score in the 61st minute and Roberts’s conversion pushed the Knights out to an unassailable 30-0 lead.

Blake Ferguson scored for the Raiders four minutes later to prevent a shut-out then Knights bench prop Robbie Rochow charged over to score six minutes from the end.

‘‘Going back a month ago, I said after this Canberra game we’ll assess what sort of month we’ve had, and it’s been a good month,’’ Knights skipper Danny Buderus said.

‘‘But we’ve got a month and a bit to go in the regular season and we’ll just see where we pop our heads up and go from there.

‘‘But at the moment we’re just enjoying what we’re doing, and that’s the big thing.

‘‘We’re turning up at training on Monday, enjoying the week, and that’s showing in the games, so it’s a good place to be.’’

Buderus said the players cleared a significant mental hurdle by backing up with a win after their trip to Auckland the previous weekend, when they recovered from an 18-0 deficit to beat the Warriors 24-19.

Raiders coach David Furner believed his side were capable of coming back from their 12-0 half-time deficit, but they did not match Newcastle’s second-half intensity.

‘‘We just needed that composure, and getting through your sets, and I thought we had a couple of fundamental errors that invited them straight back in,’’ he said.

‘‘Their kicking game was better than ours in the second half and they made us pay for those errors.’’

Furner was confident his team could bounce back from their latest setback and make a charge at the finals.

He had an ally in Bennett, who anticipated many more twists and turns.

‘‘Melbourne Storm’s lost five in a row, and who’d have thought that the way they started the footy season?’’ Bennett said.

‘‘Who’d have thought we’d have done what we’ve done the way we were playing seven or eight weeks ago?

‘‘It’s a crazy competition, but that’s how the league has designed it – that’s what they want – and that makes it great for everybody involved if you’re a fan. But if you’re a coach, it’s a nightmare.’’

? The Knights suffered a seventh-straight NYC loss when they fell 36-28 to the Raiders yesterday.

The Illawarra Cutters blanked the Knights 22-0 in the NSW Cup game at WIN Stadium yesterday.

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