Fulltime score: Round 7 Newcastle Knights 20 v Bulldogs 24
Match summary: The Bulldogs finally held on to a lead at EnergyAustralia Stadium this afternoon to hold out a very spirited Newcastle outfit by 24-20.
The home side battled injuries to three of their players in the first half, along with the crushing losses of Johns and Abraham last week, to hold the reigning premiers, who have themselves struggled with injury, to just a four point gap.
Newcastle started strongly and led 6-0 early after a try to rookie Trent Salkeld and a penalty goal for Kurt Gidley. The Bulldogs evened up with Hazem El Masri scoring and converting his own try, but another penalty gave Newcastle an 8-6 lead. They held the 'Dogs out until the last minutes of the half, the Bulldogs scoring, going to the break leading 12-8.
After halftime, the Bulldogs sped out to a 24-8 lead after 15 minutes, with two tries to Luke Patten. It wasn't until the one-hour mark that Newcastle hit back, and buoyed by the EnergyAustralia crowd, they scored two tries in a 10 minute period to come within 4 points of the premiers.
In the final ten minutes, both teams gave the game their all, but neither could cross. In the final minute, Salkeld, with two tries already up his sleeve, went painfully close to putting the Bulldogs in the losing kennel, but League Unlimited Man of the Match Luke Patten managed to bundle him into touch and finish the game with a win for the team once known as Canterbury. While the 2 points will be a confidence boost for the Bulldogs, there is still a long way to go before they can consider themselves finals material again. Newcastle continue to grip the wooden spoon firmly but are showing some promising signs as the season grows.
Scorers: KNIGHTS 20 Tries: T Salkeld 2, Woolnough Goals: K Gidley 4/5 BULLDOGS 24 Tries: L Patten 2, H El Masri, B Morrin Goals: H El Masri 4/4
EnergyAustralia Stadium Referee: Steve Lyons
By the clock: Notes: Bulldogs, O'Meley out. Maitua into the lineup (second-row), Myles to front row. Charlie Tonga to fill Maitua's bench spot. No changes for the Knights. The notable missing names of Daniel Abraham and Andrew Johns will impact heavily on the Newcastle club.
0 min: Kick-off! Newcastle to take the ball up for the first set.
3 min: TRY- Knights. Try to Salkeld in the corner. Conversion by Gidley (his first attempt in 2005) has missed. Knights 4-0.
7 min: NEWS- The Bulldogs through Brent Sherwin attempt a 40/20 but Hughes cleans it up before it can cross the touchline. Both teams performing well so far with Newcastle marginally in front. Knights now given a penalty 33m out right in front.
8 min: PENALTY GOAL- Knights. Newcastle penalty in front 30m out, converted by Gidley. Knights 6-0.
9 min: NEWS- From the kickoff Craig Smith drops the ball and the Dogs now with a set on the Knights line.
12 min: TRY- Bulldogs. Hazem El Masri crosses wide for Canterbury after Reegan Tanner handed them a penalty on top of the line. El Masri conversion from the touchline successful. Knights/Bulldogs 6-6.
20 min: PENALTY GOAL- Knights. Kurt Gidley puts it over from in front. Knights 8-6.
25 min: NEWS- Newcastle receiving penalty after penalty from referee Lyons. Newcastle heavily on the attack now, but that comes to an end with a Kurt Gidley knock on.
31 min: NEWS- The Bulldogs now dominating with a few more possessions but a few errors getting the better of them. Score remains Newcastle 8-6.
39 min: TRY- Bulldogs. Brad Morrin scores on debut for the Dogs about 10 mtrs in from touch, after the Dogs continually put pressure on the opposition line. El Masri conversion easily there. Bulldogs 12-8.
HALFTIME and The Bulldogs 12 lead Newcastle Knights 8. Penalties stand 7-2 to the Knights and Scrums 4-3 Newcastle's way also. A pretty even contest so far has seen the referee come under pressure from the crowd on numerous occassions. As has been the case with every game in 2005 so far, anything could happen after the break. Stay tuned. For the second half the Knights will be without Tolar, Simpson and Carmont.
40 min: Second Half has begun. Knights with a strong breeze at their back on a sunny afternoon at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
43 min: NO TRY- Bulldogs. Corey Hughes being assessed for grounding of the ball. DECISION PENDING... No try. Knock-on over the line, Knights 20m tap.
45 min: TRY- Bulldogs. Patten scores after the Dogs charge at the line and reclaim the ball for another set. El Masri extends a now commanding lead for Canterbury. Bulldogs 18-8.
46 min: NEWS- A couple of records have fallen for El Masri today, with his try to open the scoring he crossed 1400 points, and with one more goal today he will reach 500 career goals.
54 min: TRY- Bulldogs. Newcastle now on track to lose their 6th straight game for the year. Patten's double comes as the Dogs pull away. El Masri converts easily and makes 500 career goals. Bulldogs 24-8.
62 min: TRY- Knights. Newcastle finally manage to score a try in the second half and a comeback is being felt all around Energy now. Salkeld scores his second try in the corner. Gidley conversion there! Bulldogs 24-14.
64 min: NEWS- Knights 40/20 from Witt and now Newcastle looking like a threat in a big way. The crowd is vibrant once again.
65 min: TRY- Knights. Newcastle now right on the heels of the Dogs with a try to Woolnough. Gidley converts. Bulldogs 24-20.
71 min: NEWS- The Knights really pushing the Bulldogs now as both teams begin to wear out. Steve Lyons receiving an icy reception from the pro-Newcastle crowd.
73 min: NO TRY- Bulldogs. Possible Dogs try, checking for onside and grounding. If awarded, Newcastle are staring at their 6th loss from 6 starts in 2005. DECISION PENDING... no try. Knights 20mtr restart. Bulldogs ruled to have knocked the ball on ingoal.
78 min: NEWS- A very hard-hitting game from both sides being played. The Bulldogs have done well to hold Newcastle out so far and with two to go we have a sensational couple of minutes left. Bulldogs 24-20.
79 min: NEWS- Newcastle with one set of six and a minute to go. The Knights really troubling the Bulldogs.
80 min, FULLTIME: Patten puts Salkeld into touch, saving the Dogs and giving them the win. Fulltime is blown.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - L Patten (Bulldogs) 2 - H El Masri (Bulldogs) 1 - D Buderus (Knights) -----------------------------------------