Newcastle co-captain Jamie Buhrer could miss rest of the season after suffering a serious knee injury as the Knights fell just short of upsetting the Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
The Roosters stretched their dominance over the Knights to 10 wins from their last 11 clashes but not before being given a late scare in their 18-16 victory.
The Knights trialled 12-8 at halftime and 18-10 deep into the second half before a Kalyn Ponga try with just over three minutes left set up a thrilling final few minutes. But the Roosters hung on with prop Sio Siua Taukeiaho, lock Issac Liu and winger Blake Ferguson among their stars.
The Knights, without the likes of Mitchell Pearce, Tautau Moga, Nathan Ross and Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, were brave in defeat with their defence in particular a few rungs above what they have produced at home over the past month.
But they just lacked the polish with the football at crucial times in attack when they had the Roosters’ defence under the pump.
There are fears Buhrer ruptured the ACL in his right knee not long after he took the field in the first half, an injury he has suffered on two previous occasions.
He left the field 13 minutes before halftime with the Knights a man short on the bench for the remainder of the contest. Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell picked up from where he left off with the Blues last Wednesday night when he laid on a try for Luke Keary to get the Roosters off for a flier.
From deep in his own half just four minutes in, Mitchell skipped to the outside of Knights defenders Connor Watson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall and took off down the left touch line putting Keary over untouched. Mitchell converted for a 6-0 lead.
But after getting the ball back from the kick-off, the Knights struck back almost immediately.
The ball went through several sets of hands to centre Sione Mata'utia, who shrugged off three Roosters defenders to cross for a strong try in a handy position for Kalyn Ponga to convert and tie things up.
The Knights had another crack at the Roosters try-line soon after but after being awarded a penalty, opted for the two points and an 8-6 advantage.
The Knights came up with some outstanding goal-line defence mid-way through the half to repel the Roosters, highlighted by a crunching try-saver by hooker Slade Griffin when lock Isaac Liu looked certain to score.
On another occasion, Watson bravely put his body on the line to thwart Lui close to the line before the cavalry arrived to hold him up over the line.
Unfortunately for the home side, a couple of mistakes undid some of their defensive efforts with a flying Blake Ferguson proving unstoppable close to the line after the visitors worked a set piece from a scrum win.
Mitchell converted the Ferguson try to give the Roosters their 12-8 halftime lead.
They increased their lead to 16-8 with a soft try to Ferguson just minutes into the second half after Ponga put down a kick.
On the last tackle, the Knights fell asleep at marker with Ferguson slipping down a short blindside before crashing over the top of Ken Sio to plant the ball down in the corner.
The Knights edged two points closer with a Ponga penalty goal before Roosters bench forward Dylan Napa was sent to the sin-bin following a string of penalties.
The Knights failed to take advantage of the Roosters being a man short and it was the visitors who managed to stretch their lead to 18-10 through a Mitchell penalty goal.
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