THE Newcastle Knights have bounced back to winners' table after a second-half thriller at Hunter Stadium. The young-gun Knights rose to the challenge of overcoming the reigning premiers, and were successful with a 16-12 victory. A 15,468 strong crowd were left on the edge of their seats in the dying minutes of the game as both teams played hot potato with the football.
An early penaltyto the Sydney Roosters lead to a soft try in the 1st minute - scored by none other than the Roosters' captain and fullback: Anthony Minichiello. The Knights' defenders ran and abruptly stopped as though they were hit by a brick wall of air. Minichiello capitalised and flew right past them, getting the ball over the line. James Maloney produced the goods with the conversion and the Roosters lead 6-0 at the 3rd minute.
The rest of the first half proved to be a tug of war between the rookies and the veterans. At the 15 minute mark, Maloney and Knights debutant Sione Mati'utia foot-raced to collect the footy like primary school students who wanted to be at the front of the canteen line. Maloney was looking to score a try and Mati'utia aiming to save conceding one. A scramble with the footy lead to a 'no try' decision by the video referee. You can breathe now, Newcastle fans.
Everything was coming up Milhouse for the Roosters at the 22nd minute, as the Knights gave away a penalty 5 metres out from their own line. Unfortunately for the Bondi boys, the contest for the possible try lead to another 'no try' decision by the video ref.
Sloppy plays and mistakes from both sides also made the battle more difficult, with the Roosters' superstar winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck dropping a bomb at the 29th minute. A couple of minutes later, a mistake from the Knights also lead to a drop-ball at the 35m line, however, this one was costly as Maloney again came up with ball and crossed over, though, he was ruled held.
A solid defensive effort by the Knights meant that they went into halftime down by 6 points. The Sydney Roosters were aiming to maintain their new-found form, whilst the Knights' goal was to bounce back from their loss last week - the second half was going to be an important 40 minutes of football.
4 minutes after coming back from the sheds, the Knights managed to dive over the line. However, in desperate attempts to keep the ball alive on the last play, the final pass turned out to be forward, deflating the Knights' confidence.
It was back and forth between both teams, before Knights young-gun Tyrone Roberts crossed the line and got the 4 points at the 60th minute. Though, this was overshadowed by the simultaneous sin-binning of Roosters player Jared Warea-Hargreaves who was disrespecting the referee. Dane Gagai converted the try so it was neck and neck with 20 minutes to go.
A boost of confidence meant another Knights try just 4 minutes later as a result of a magical offload by Willie Mason. Tyrone Roberts went in for a double, although, Gagai could not repeat the same magic with his kick for the conversion. The score was 10-6 with a thrilling 15 minutes to go.
The Roosters bounced back at the 72nd second minute, with Frank Paul-Nu'uausala crossing over. Maloney kicked for cash right above the black dot and it looked like it was game over for the Knights with the Roosters leading 12-10.
One of the things I've learnt as a rugby league fan is not to assume it isgame over when the clock hits the 75th minute. Game over is at the 80th minute (unless of course the match goes into extra time). As I was starting to breathe and look at what was left of my nails, the young Knights' halfback Tyrone Roberts created an opportunity for Joseph Leilua in the 79th minute, just as the crowd was falling off their seats in anticipation. The video referee was asked to check the onside and grounding. Thegreen lights lit up, causing a simultaneous 'YYEEAAAHH!' from the crowd - the Knights supporters, anyway. The superstar halfback converted the try, adding a cherry on top of the sweet miracle try.
Desperate attempts from the Roosters in the final minute mimicked a game of hot potato, but it did not pay off as the final siren hooted.
The bottom-of-the-ladder Knights managed to steal the victory from the reigning premiers in an intense thriller at Newcastle. A miraculous 16-12 victory to the rookies gave them a well-earned confidence boost. You know what they say, once you've hit rock-bottom, the only way you can go is up.