The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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A hat-trick from flying Fijian Akuila Uate helped the Newcastle Knights start their season with a bang in a 42-10 demolition of Wests Tigers in front of an appreciative 21,935 strong crowd at Hunter Stadium.
In one of the most one sided opening round fixtures in recent memory, the Knights dominated in all facets on the paddock and every stats column off it.
With 63 percent possession on their side, Newcastle ran a total of 1472 metres with the ball under their wing, tearing an errant Tigers side to shreds in the process.
“Everyone was keen to play tonight, we didn’t want to let the Newcastle people down… (we also wanted to) put some pride back in the jersey,” veteran forward Willie Mason told FoxSports after the match.
And you would have found it impossible to spot a disappointed Novocastrian following a performance where everything they touched turned to gold.
Despite the final margin, it was a shaky start for the Knights, with five-eighth Jarrod Mullen kicking out on the full in their opening set before a ruck infringement then gifted the Tigers golden field position.
However, the Knights rebounded almost immediately thanks to winger James McManus, who opened his account for 2013 in the left hand corner to reduce the deficit to 6-4 after 10 minutes.
Uate then set the home crowd alight with a blockbusting 60 metre kick return. He then backed up on the next play to touch down in the corner before Kurt Gidley’s sideline conversion gave his side a 10-6 lead.
The Knights then made it three tries in fifteen minutes when former Brisbane Broncos centre Gagai scooped up a pass to score.
A penalty goal increased the margin to 18-6 before Gagai was in the thick of the action again – he pounced on a wayward Tigers ball before running away for his second.
Coming out of the sheds ahead 24-6, the Knights picked up from where they left off in the first half as Uate stepped infield through some sloppy defence.
Wests compounded their woes by kicking off on the full before Uate (50th minute) and McManus (55th minute) added another notch to their try scoring tally.
Wests managed a consolation try to fullback Tim Moltzen in the final play of the match but by that stage it was far too little far too late.
The only concern for the Knights was a possible injury to Mullen, who left the field midway through the second half with what appeared to be a hand complaint.
As for the Tigers, they appear to have bigger issues heading into the second round clash against Penrith at Campbelltown Stadium next Sunday afternoon.