Jersey Flegg - round 14 Knights
defence too strong for Sharks

The Newcastle Knights hosted the Sharks in their round 14 Jersey Flegg encounter. The Sharks started as favourites as they were running 3rd, 2 points off the competition lead. The Knights stayed in 6th position even after their shock (and at times controversial) last round loss to the Magpies.

As Newcastle's never-ending injury toll continued to mount, five-eight and captain Scott Dureau was missing for this game, as was winger Stephen Gordon and hooker Nathan Berry. These players had been called up to Premier League, following Andrew Johns' call-up to the NSW Origin team. This meant Dane Campbell moved from the halfback spot in Premier League to First Grade, leaving a position vacant in the halves which Dureau filled.

Persistent showers throughout the day in Newcastle made for a slippery surface. The first 20 minutes of the game was spent inside the Newcastle 20 metre area with the Sharks controlling field position and possession. Some of the reason for this was a heavy penalty count going in their favour (10-0 penalty count to the Sharks at halftime). This was combined with some intelligent wet-weather style of play, kicking to the corners and forcing the Knights to work off their own line.

After numerous sets of six camped inside the Newcastle 20, the Knights defence cracked and the Sharks opened the scoring through fullback Mitch Brown. The unsuccessful conversion left the scoreline at the Sharks leading 4-0 after 25 minutes. The remaining 10 minutes of the first half was the same as the first 25. The Sharks had a glut of possession and consistently made the Knights finish their sets on their own 40 metre line. The Sharks scored their second try a few minutes out from halftime, this time through replacement Tony Caine, which extended their lead out to 8-0 with the unsuccessful conversion. The scoreline stayed that way until the halftime break, with the Knights faithful letting the referee know their thoughts on his first half performance.

The second half was a different story to the first half with the Knights finding a way of combating the Sharks fast-moving defence. This was through quick play the balls and kicking early in the tackle count. The arm wrestle continued with both teams determined not to make a mistake. This was broken in the 50th minute when Newcastle centre Sam Wooden scored off a clever Luke Walsh kick. Walsh added the extras to put the Knights back in the game as they trailed 8-6. From the restart, both teams went back to an arm-wrestle style of play again, with a slippery ball making ball handling, at times, difficult. With about 8 minutes remaining, the Sharks were once again hammering away at the Newcastle tryline. The defence refused to crack. Then a cut-out ball from Sharks halfback Ben Green, intended for centre Bryson Goodwin, was intercepted by Knights winger Aaron Hartmann. The race was then on. Hartmann pinned the ears back and was setting sail for the north-eastern corner, as the Sharks defence converged. All this was too late, as Hartmann raced 95 metres to put the Knights in front for the first time in the game. Halfback Walsh added the extras and the Knights led by 12 points to 8. This remained the final score, as the Knights won their first game in 4 weeks.

Special mention must go to Luke Walsh for the Knights, who took over the captaincy and goalkicking with Dureau out.