The Newcastle Knights will be aiming to put some distance between them and the bottom of the table on Sunday afternoon against the Wests Tigers.
Follow the match below and check back at full-time for Robert Dillon’s match report.
2.05: We’re off. Beautiful winter day, decent-looking crowd. Lots of orange on and off the field.
2.10: Jaelen Feeney knocks on on his own 10m line. Trouble.
2.11: Try Tigers. Lolohea sucks in the defence and throws a cut-out pass to Watene-Zelezniak to stroll over. Lolohea converts for 6-0.
2.15: Tigers bomb a try when Naiqama makes a break but throws an awful last pass to Nofoaluma. Tigers playing with plenty of razzle-dazzle early.
2.19: Tigers revert to type with a comical knock-on near halfway. Knights on the attack. Innocuous Hodkinson kick throws away promising spell.
2:21: Tigers butcher another try after sensational Brooks break. Lolohea trips over himself then loses the ball inches from the line.
2.35: Sorry folks, technical difficulty. Not much of joy to report for Knights fans during our outage – the Tigers have raced out to a 20-0 lead with just under nine minutes left in the first half after tries to Kevin Naiqama and Jacob Liddle, who in the 24th minute burrowed through despite having no options.
2.38: Fullback Nathan Ross misjudges a bounce in his in-goal and the pressure is back on right before the break. This is getting diabolical for Knights fans. A penalty gives them a moment of respite minutes before a dropped ball leaves the Knights just outside their own 20.
2.43: It’s all over for the first half. Dane Gagai scoots down the edge in a 50-metre dash that ends in a bomb dropped by Kevin Naiqama. Peter Mata’utia nabs a pass intended for Dane Gagai and plants it for an apparent try but the linesman calls it back. The call is forward pass from captain Sione. Seems harsh, to say the least, but it hasn’t been a friendly 40 minutes for the home side. Boos follow the siren.
3PM: We’re back on for the second half. Given a 28-10 lead went begging against the Dragons last week, Knights fans will be hoping the team bucks the trend for a big final 40 minutes.
3.02PM: Danny Levi scrapes together a Luke Brooks bomb that looked more dangerous than it should have. Knights back on the attack, Hodkinson puts through a bounding grubber but the Tigers regather.
3.07PM: Joel Edwards regathers a Tigers kicks and it’s six again right on the home side’s tryline. Brooks appears to knock-on but the game rolls on, ending with a Peter Mata’utia catch and the Knights march to halfway with a subsequent penalty. Score remains 20-0 to the Tigers.
3.10PM: Danny Levi burrows over for a try but appears unlikely to get the points after the referee sends it to the bunker with an early call of No Try. It goes close but never definitely hits the turf. Tigers restart. On the attack again, Luke Brooks pummels through Trent Hodkinson and the Newcastle the line before a Joel Edwards grubber lets the Knights off easy. The Knights put it into touch on the next set, scrum to come on the Tigers’ 10-metre line.
3.16PM: Kevin Naiqama throws the final pass as the Tigers cross the stripe again, this time in the right corner. Kick misses, and there's just over 24 minutes left to play. One for every point the Tigers have scored so far. The Knights regather off a short kick-off and go straight on the attack. On the last, Danny Levi fumbles at dummy-half and spikes the ball in frustration. It’s been that kind of day.
3.25PM: The Knights appear to have missed out after staring down an open line on the left side, but on the next tackle bring it back to the right and sent Lachlan Fitzgibbon over the line for a moment of relief. There’s just under a quarter of the game (18 minutes) left to unfold – they’ve scored more points in less time just a week ago. Trent Hodkinson adds the extras, 24-6.The Knights make a meal of the kick return, with three players nearly colliding, and the Tigers are in attacking territory.
3.30PM: The Tigers try to do a bit too much, giving Newcastle a chance to get out of their own end. Gagai streaks through the line, puts in a kick metres from scoring himself and it’s Joe Wardle who catches the perfectly placed ricochet. Are the Knights coming for Wests at the death? Trent Hodkinson does his part. Newcastle are 12 points down with 13 minutes and 30 seconds left. Is it over?
3.33PM: The next set is one to make you think so. The Knights struggle to find a fifth-tackle option, ultimately letting Mitch Barnett grubber for himself just past halfway. The Tigers get back on the attack and send a bomb down for Nathan Ross, who handles it an instant before the chasers reach him. Gagai tries to slice through again but is swallowed. The same things happens moments later as offloads lead to a Nathan Ross chip to Sione Mata’utia on the wing. He doesn’t get close.
3.37PM: Desperation seems to be seeping into the Knights as the crowds start to melt towards the exits. Forward passes from both sides have the scrums forming up seconds after they disband about 25 metres from the Knights tryline. The game is still very much in play, of course, with just under seven minutes left – but it probably says as much about the Tigers’ inability to strike a killer blow as the Knights’ refusal to concede. Still, one linebreak or a quick try and it’s a live-wire finish.
3.41PM: Luke Brooks drives the nail into the coffin of the Knights with a field goal from point blank range. There’s three and a half minutes left, you’re up by 12 – why not? 25-12, Tigers lead. Next minute they’re lining up a two-pointer and you can understand the growing flow for the exits, even if the scoreline is something of a curio. 27-12 to the Tigers.
3.45PM: One last gut-punch. Aaron Woods offloads, letting Luke Brooks streak through to score under the posts as the game enters its final minute. 31-12 before the kick but after the siren.
FULL TIME: Tigers defeat Knights 33-12. Robert Dillon match report here.