NEWCASTLE Knights produced a barnstorming second half to power past Canberra 34-20 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
After leading 10-8 at half-time, the Knights trailed 14-10 in the 44th minute.
But a three-try blitz in 10 minutes to Joe Wardle, Sione Mata’utia and Pete Mata’utia blew open the game for the home side.
The win was their first since a 34-26 triumph over the Gold Coast Titans at the same venue in round two and doubled their tally of victories from last season.
However, there were concerns for Knights second-rower Jacob Saifiti who was taken to hospital for precautionary scans after suffering a neck injury in the first half. Early reports were that he had damaged a nerve.
Knights halfback Jaelen Feeney, wearing an indigenous jersey he helped design, played a part in three tries in his most influential performance.
Daniel Saifiti was a standout, winning a knockout blow over the highly-rated Raiders big men. He carried the ball a game high 183 metres and made 23 bruising tackles.
Pete Mata’utia, as well as scoring a try, helped lay on two, and in defence combined with brother Sione and Nathan Ross to contain danger men Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana.
The Knights led 10-8 after an enterprising opening 40 minutes.
Nathan Ross and Sione Mata’utia crossed for the home side.
Winger Nick Cotric touched down for the Raiders and skipper Jarrod Croker added a conversion and a penalty.
The 10,997 fans at the stadium held their breath in the 28th minute when Jacob Saifiti was left motionless on the ground after attempting a low tackle on Dunamis Lui.
Knights medical staff showed caution around his neck before he was taken from the field on a medicab.
Daniel Saifiiti came over to check on the well-being of his twin as play was held up for eight minutes.
The visitors had earlier lost lock Luke Bateman to concussion.
The Knights thrashed a Raiders side minus Leilua, Rapana and Jack Wighton 44-0 at Seiffert Oval in their only pre-season trial.
Again they started on the front foot. Nathan Ross, fresh from representing City origin, dived over in the 6th minute.
Jaelen Feeney was involved twice.
The lead was short-lived. Two minutes later, off the back of a penalty, the Raiders created an extra man with a block play and Nick Cotric touched down in the left corner.
Jarrod Croker added the extras from the sideline for 6-4 after 10 minutes.
Playing with new-found confidence, Feeney played a part in the Knights second try with slick hand to Brock Lamb who hit Sione Mata’utia running in at an angle.
The back-rower brushed through the tackle of Joey Leilua and had too much pace for the cover in a 30 metre dash. Lamb converted for 10-8 after 20 minutes.
The home side thought they had extended the lead five minutes before half time only to be denied by the bunker.
After turning down a gift two points, Lachlan Fitzgibbon swiveled over from close range but as he went to ground the ball spilt from his grasp.
The Raiders struck first in the second half through Elliott Whitehead.
Again it came off the back of a Knights penalty, and the second rower crashed through the tackle of Sione Mata’utia.
Croker’s conversion made it 14-10 after 44 minutes.
Daniel Saifiti was replaced in the 55th minute after making 153m and 22 tackles.
A minute later the Knights were in front again.
Feeney dummied on the inside and threw a short pass to Wardle who burst through.
Lamb added the extras for 16-14 in the 56th minute.
Four minutes later the Knights were in again after Sione Mata’utia reacted quickest to a Leilua fumbled from a Lamb grubber.
Peter Mata’utia completed the barrage when he collected a neat inside pass from Josh Starling and wrestled through tackles of Clay Priest and Blake Austin.
The Newcastle Herald’s live blog is done. Watch this space for James Gardiner’s match report, which should land in a few minutes. Thanks for reading.
78th MIN: They have done it. Brock Lamb wins the race to a Peter Mata’utia grubber and the Knights have held on for their second win of the season. Newcastle 34 Canberra 20.
75th MIN: Nervous moments for Knights fans. It was end-to-end for a bit there before the Raiders crossed through Cotric in the corner. Croker converts and its 28-20 with five minutes to go.
67th MIN: WOW! Peter Mata’utia muscles his way over after some awesome big man ball playing. The crowd goes ballistic, the players all rush in and jump on each other. The Knights lead 28-14 with 12 minutes to go. Do not adjust your TV set, this is not a drill.
60th MIN: Upset alert! Brock Lamb’s grubber kick ricochets off Joey Leilua and Sione Mata’utia is first to the ball to touch it down, much to Knights’ fans delight. 22-14 wtih 20 minutes to go.
56th MIN: The Knights are back, baby! Joe Wardle – the Earl of Halifax – crashes over and the Knights take the lead 16-14. Should be a bloody excellent last 20 minutes.
44th MIN: Elliott Whitehead crashes over and Croker converts to make it 14-10. Not, we repeat NOT, what the Knights wanted.
UPDATE FROM THE KNIGHTS ON JACOB SAIFITI:
HALFTIME: Knights are in this up to their eyeballs. But can they maintain it in the second half? Stick around and we’ll find out.
37th MIN: Turning point! Could be, Brock Lamb’s bootlace tackle on a flying Joey Leilua should not be forgotten if the Knights get out of this one.
35th MIN: The Knights looked to have scored for all money, but Lachlan Fitzgibbon has dropped it short of the line. No try. Still, Knights on top in this arm wrestle.
29th MIN: Real concern for Jacob Saifiti here. He’s been down on the field about halfway for several minutes. Training staff around him. The play has stopped. They’ve called for the medicab. His brother, Daniel, has gone over to check on him. The medical staff and trainers are taking a lot of precaution here. He’s been taken from the field on the medicab. We’ll update you when we hear more.
27th MIN: Plenty of pressure on the Knights those last few minutes but they weather the storm. Pretty encouraging signs from the Knights so far.
16th MIN: WHADDABOUT THAT!!! Sione Mata’utia shot out of a cannon through the heart of the Raiders defensive line and then he’s got enough pace to go past the fullback and SCORE! The Knights take the lead 10-8 after Brock Lamb, who provided the lovely little tip-on to spring Mata’utia free, converts.
12th MIN: The Raiders get a penalty in front and…. take the two. A sign of respect for the Knights?
9th MIN: That was too easy. The Raiders hit straight back after a penalty piggy-backs them down field. Simple block play and Jarrod Croker finds winger Nick Cotric unmarked to touch down. Croker converts from the sideline and the Raiders lead 6-4.
5th MIN: “Bit of a slow start from both teams,” is what we were about to post... until Nathan Ross dived over in the corner. The Ross Dog can sniff out a try. Good lead-up work from halfback Jaelen Feeney and the Knights had an overlap on the left-edge. 4 zip to the good guys.
Welcome to the Newcastle Herald’s live blog of the Knights vs Raiders clash at McDonald Jones Stadium on Mother’s Day.
It’s a bit of a dreary day here, but there’s a decent crowd packed in hopeful the Knights can get their second win of the season in the NRL’s Indigenous round.
There are plenty of changes for the Knights, including Dane Gagai shifting to fullback to replace Brendan Elliot.
Gagai will be covered in the centres by English import Joe Wardle, who comes off the bench. Back-up hooker Tyler Randall is now one of the four interchange players.
Junior Kanagaroos second-rower Sam Stone wasn’t selected with Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Josh King called into the starting side.