Knights riding high after Auckland victory

TRANS-TASMAN RUMBLE: Knights forward Adam Cuthbertson takes on the Warriors defence at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images
TRANS-TASMAN RUMBLE: Knights forward Adam Cuthbertson takes on the Warriors defence at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

BOOED off the field by their own fans six weeks ago after a humiliating 32-16 loss to the Raiders at Hunter Stadium, the Knights are now the talk of the town for all the right reasons after a back-from-the-dead 24-19 victory over the Warriors in Auckland on Saturday night.

The Knights trailed 18-0 after 16 minutes at Mt Smart Stadium and seemed destined for a lopsided loss that would have all but snuffed out their finals hopes.

But they rallied with four spectacular tries to outside backs Aku Uate, Kevin Naiqama, Timana Tahu and Dane Gagai – all converted from the sideline by halfback Tyrone Roberts – to record their first win in Auckland in seven years.

It was Newcastle’s fourth victory from their past five games, leaving them 11th but tied with the Warriors, Titans, Raiders and Dragons on 20 points with six rounds to go.

After their stunning 32-6 upset against Manly in Newcastle, the Knights have claimed the scalps of both the 2011 grand finalists in seven days.

As they prepare for a shot at redemption against the Raiders at Canberra Stadium on Sunday, the Knights have moved within one win of the top eight, although eighth-placed Wests Tigers (22 points) have a game in hand against the sixth-placed Cowboys (24) in Townsville tonight.

Asked at the post-match media conference what he was thinking when the Knights trailed 18-0, coach Wayne Bennett said: ‘‘Everybody in Newcastle would have turned their TVs off ...’’

But those who stuck solid were rewarded.

‘‘To come here and win any time is always hard, and Newcastle hasn’t done that for a long time here, so that was a bit of an obstacle for us as well,’’ Bennett said.

The Warriors had 75per cent of possession in the opening 20 minutes and the Knights offered little resistance, but skipper Danny Buderus said they stayed patient and took their chances.

‘‘Once we got a bit of possession and got down their end and fired a couple of bullets ourselves, we looked all right, and we backed that up with a bit of confidence in our defence,’’ Buderus said.

‘‘That’s what we did and got back in the game.’’

Newcastle’s revival has flown in the face of their poor record without club captain Kurt Gidley.

Statistics the Newcastle Herald published after the Knights hit rock bottom against the Raiders on June 9 revealed they have won 52 of the 100 games he has played since 2007.

At that time, they had won nine of the 35 games Gidley had missed due to injuries or representative commitments since 2007, which included one win from eight this year.

Since then, they have won four out of five without him, which has improved this year’s strike rate in games without Gidley to five wins from 13.

Dismissed as boring and lacking in enterprise in attack for the first two-thirds of the season, the Knights have broken the shackles in the past month.

After 14 rounds, only the Dragons (190) had scored fewer points than Newcastle’s 208.

Posting four wins from five matches since then, the Knights have amassed 128 points, and are now ranked 10th in points scored.

‘‘The quality of the football that we played in the last 60 minutes and what we played against Manly, we’re putting ourselves in a position to match it with the good sides and that’s where I want to be, so we’re starting to get that part right,’’ Bennett told ABC radio after the game.

‘‘I’m not one to get ahead of ourselves there – a month ago we looked like we could have been wooden spooners – so I’m not going to get carried away with that.

‘‘What’s changed is the players are getting used to me, I think. We’re getting used to what we want to do and how we want to do it. They’re buying into it ... and we’ve had a pretty stable side for the last five or six weeks as well.

‘‘I’ve kind of worked out now who can get the job done here and who can’t ... We’re starting to get a base underneath us ... so that if we’ve got a key player missing, someone else will put their hand up, and that’s what the good clubs have.’’

? The Warriors extended Newcastle’s losing streak to six games with a 24-14 win in the NYC curtain-raiser. The Knights beat Windsor Wolves 22-14 in the NSW Cup game at Townson Oval yesterday.