THE NEWCASTLE Knights have blown another half-time lead and lost a seventh straight NRL game as a third straight wooden spoon looms closer.
The last-placed team again battled bravely but were ultimately outdone by the Brisbane Broncos 34-22 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
In front of a crowd of 13,733 the hosts led 12-6 at the break but the Broncos scored three in the space of nine minutes shortly after half-time, including one to touted Knights signing Tautau Moga, to take a 12-point advantage.
Newcastle fought back to get within two with 17 minutes remaining but the visitors crossed twice, including one to prop Korbin Sims who left the Knights earlier this year.
The Knights finished the round 19 fixture with 16 players after Peter Mata'utia failed a HIA test. The centre was replaced in the fourth minute.
Jordan Kahu, playing on the wing for Brisbane, opened the scoring when he flew over the top of Chanel Mata'utia on the right edge to collect a cross-field chip from Broncos halfback Ben Hunt.
It came after the Knights bombed an almost-certain try at the other end with halfback Trent Hodkinson, in sight of the line, dropping a pass behind him from prop Daniel Saifiti.
But the hosts weren't left to rue the missed opportunity with co-captain Sione Mata'utia and Danny Levi striking back almost immediately and crossing within four minutes of one another.
Sione Mata'utia sliced through a hole 10 metres out and scored next to the left-hand upright in the 32nd minute following quick hands along the Newcastle backline from Hodkinson, five-eighth Brock Lamb and reserve hooker Levi.
A few sets later Levi finished a move he started on halfway. He trailed a line-break from fullback Nathan Ross, who beat two would-be defenders, after taking an inside ball from Hodkinson.
The Broncos started the second half strongly with centre James Roberts, returning five-eighth Anthony Milford and Moga all scoring.
Newcastle replied in the 55th minute via winger Chanel Mata'utia. Hodkinson added the extras from the sideline to reduce the margin to six.
Eight minutes later Hodkinson delivered Origin hero Dane Gagai with a cut-out ball leading to a try but the No.7 missed the conversion to lvel proceedings and Brisbane led 24-22.
With 10 minutes left on the clock Sims barged over three defenders from 10m out to score and help extend the lead to eight.
Broncos winger Jonus Pearson finished off with a try in the 77th minute.
FULL-TIME: The Broncos were just a class above tonight in a high-scoring affair. The Knights looked really good in the 10 minutes before half-time and then again in an eight minute period in the second stanza. But, of course, that’s not enough to win games in the NRL and the Knights made too many mistakes and the Broncos pack dominated through the middle third of the field. Stick around for a full match-report from sports journalist Josh Callinan and we’ll have all the reaction from the coaches and players after the game. Thanks for reading.
77th MINUTE: Another Broncos try and this one is all but over. 34-22.
74th MINUTE: That was magic from Gagai. Geez he’s good to watch. On the back of being named the best player in the State of Origin series, Gagai just put about a dozen moves on his opposition centre. Unfortunately, Mitch Barnett dropped it cold on the next tackle. Just not the Knights night.
70th MINUTE: Ah you hate to see that. Former Knight Korbin Sims has only gone and scored a try. And he’s given the fans a send-off to boot. Naturally, he gets mercilessly booed. Broncos back on top 30-22.
65th MINUTE: Dane...
63rd MINUTE: Don't call it a comeback! The Knights looked good there again. Jacob Saifiti with a surging run and a quick play the ball and then two plays later Gagai streams onto a sharp Hodko pass and dives over to score. 24-22 after Hodko misses the kick. *THE UPSET ALERT IS BACK ON* Also, we are implementing the *GET TO YOUR TV TO WATCH THIS GAME ALERT*
55th MINUTE: What’s that? A glimmer of hope? A sniff of a comeback? The elegantly named Chanel Mata’utia scores in the corner off a chip bat back and a pass from his brother, Sione. 24-18 to the Knights after Hodko nails it from the sideline.
50th MINUTE: Wow. The Broncos march up field and score a pretty soft try under the sticks. What happened to that Knights’ team that were dominating in the back end of the first half? 24-12 to the Broncos.
47th MINUTE: That was one of the strangest tries this reporter has seen. Sam Thaiday was over the line, but he basketballs it over to Newcastle bound Tautau Moga crosses. The Knights have not come out of the sheds for this second half. They now trail 18-12.
42nd MINUTE: Oh no! Is that the worst possible start to the second-half? The Knights would know, they've had some shockers when leading after the break. Jimmy “The Jet” Roberts races 80 metres or so to score after a very Brock Lamb-looking kick from Joe Wardle. Sione a gallant effort in stopping him from running under the posts. We’re tied up at 12-all.
HALFTIME: 12-6 to the Knights. Do you believe Knights’ fans?
35th MINUTE: BACK-TO-BACK. Tries that is. The Knights are all over these Broncos like a cheap suit. Ross Dog streams through the middle and passes to Danny Levi who races away to score. The video ref has a long look at it for some reason, but eventually gives the green light. 12-6 here. *UPSET ALERT*
32nd MINUTE: And the crowd goes flippin’ wild! Sione Mata’utia streams into a huge hole after a pretty sweet set piece from the Knights. 6-all here at McDonald Jones Stadium.
26th MINUTE: The Broncos break the deadlock and, sadly for Knights fans it was pretty easy. Jordan Kahu jumps above the pack to grab the ball and plant it down. He nails the kick and it’s 6-0.
25th MINUTE: Hodko! Come on, pal. You’ve got to swallow that and race under the sticks. Knights have the Broncos on the ropes here. Big Daniel Saifiti made the bust and drew the fullback, but Trent Hodkinson couldn’t handle the pass. Still nought plays bupkis.
24th MINUTE: Update on Pete Mata’utia; he’s failed his HIA and won’t be back tonight. A big blow for the Knights.
20th MINUTE: Major WiFi problems are making it bloody tough on those in the press box. On the field, it’s still zip plays nil.
8th MINUTE: Bit slow going this one. Both teams feeling each other out. Korbin Sims charges a drop-out back against his old team, but the Broncos spill the ball 10 metres out.
4th MINUTE: He scored a double last week in that heartbreaking Knights loss, but Peter Mata’utia’s start to this week was far from glamorous. The poor bloke’s a bit worse for wear after that tackle and he runs off into the sheds for a bit of treatment.
Welcome to the Newcastle Herald’s live blog of the Newcastle Knights and Brisbane Broncos clash at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Knights have made a host of changes ahead of tonight’s clash, with co-captain Jamie Buhrer named to start at hooker in place of usual rake Danny Levi.
Meanwhile, the Broncos main change is the addition of explosive five-eighth Anthony Milford.
It’s a clear Saturday night in Newcastle and the playing surface looks superb.
Join us here from 5.30pm as we give a blow-by-blow of the action and then at full-time for Herald sports journalist Josh Callinan’s match report and all of the reaction from Knights coach Nathan Brown and Broncos mentor Wayne Bennett.