Canterbury have made it back-to-back wins for the first time in 2017 with a 22-12 win over a spirited Newcastle outfit in front of an encouraging crowd of 16,929 at McDonald Jones Stadium tonight.
It was a first half that only produced two tries - one right before the break - and it wasn't without incident. Newcastle came out fired up and had to defend their line for the opening fifteen minutes of the contest against a rejuvenated Bulldogs attack, particularly in the first two minutes after being forced touch-in-goal from the kick off.
The Knights held firm though, and who else but Nathan Ross to go up the other end and open the try-scoring? The winger had two spectacular moments in the first half - the first diving effort was disallowed for an error but the second - almost more suited to an AFL game - was planted down successfully. Newcastle held a slender 6-0 lead.
Things looked a bit rough for Canterbury - fullback Brad Abbey was forced from the park with a head injury an the resulting substitution saw Matt Frawley introduced to proceedings - which would eventually prove a boon for the visitors.
Round 10, 2014 was the last time Newcastle kept a side scoreless in the opening 40 and with Dane Gagai terrorising defences, it looked like they would do so finally tonight. Canterbury though, dug deep and counter attacked through Marcelo Montoya which allowed Brenko Lee to cut the deficit to 6-4 at the break.
Bulldogs got the perfect start to the second half. Sam Kasiano bounded onto the kick-off and bounced defenders off him. It set the tone and Frawley poked through the line and scored his first NRL try. 10-6 Canterbury and they looked like they were hitting their straps.
It seemed the further out from the line they were, the better the 'Dogs played. Josh Morris pushed it to Moses Mbye who sprinted away - he was taken in and next tackle, Canterbury shifted right and Marcelo Montoya finished it off spectacularly.
Frawley was at it again with fifteen minutes to fulltime - this time turning provider for Josh Morris who scored in the corner and seemingly put the Bulldogs out of reach. The only thing keeping the Knights in it (apart from their own resilience) was a poor goalkicking effort from Moses Mbye and later Adam Elliot.
Sure enough the Knights edged their way back into the contest at the 70 minute mark, Dane Gagai bouncing off several defenders after a Knights break to find space in the corner. Hodkinson's conversion reduced the margin to six points and ensured a nervous few minutes for the visiting side, including what looked like a try for Sione Mata'utia. The Bunker ruled against him having lost the ball, but that didn't deter the home team, who pushed to the end.
Canterbury were rewarded for some tenacious defence with a late double for Montoya in the corner to deliver the final 22-12 scoreline.
Next week the Knights remain at home when they host the Roosters on Good Friday evening, same timeslot. Canterbury have the traditional Good Friday 4pm clash, hosting the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.