The Knights Mathews and Ball teams (U16 and U18) began their season with wins over a spirited and much improved Central Coast RIP yesterday.
In the Harold Mathews fixture the Knights were well led by tyro halfback Joel Burraston. Joel is the son of former Knights Reserve grade coach and Warren Ryan offsider Steve Burraston, and he shows all the skills one would expect from the son of someone who spent much time helping to develop the skills of players such as A. Johns.
Young Burraston has been a representative player for a few years now, but this is the first game in which I have seen him pull out the full 'bag of tricks' as a halfback.
He produced a wide range of kicks from grubbers to bombs to chips ahead and his running game looked sound, so too his defence. The area in which he most impressed was his passing game. He delivered several long, flat, bullet like cutout passes that led to tries for his outside backs on both sides of the field. The two starting centres, Richardson and Ayton, finished with five tries between them and are no doubt looking for a swag-load of tries this season courtesy of Burraston and his deadly accurate passing. The final score was 26-0. Burraston went off late in the game with what looked like a shoulder injury. Hopefully it was not serious.
The SG Ball game started in the same fashion, as the Knights ran in three quick tries early in the game. But the RIP forwards, led by former Knights prop Daniel Vuk, had other ideas. Vuk seemed up to the task of proving his worth for the RIP against his former club.
The RIP were gutsy in the lead-up to halftime, going to the break with a two-point lead. The second half became a slugfest as the two forward packs really set about sorting each other out.
Big Nic Andriessen for the Knights was sin binned for continual foul play and forwards for both sides were put on report, as the ref seemed to lose control at times.
At one stage an all-in brawl seemed to be on the cards - but the ref and touch judges got between the two packs as tempers flared. Both representative forwards. Kade Snowden and Nic Andriessen put in massive efforts to get the Knights home over a RIP side that just would not lie down. Bench forward Larry Taufua, who is on report following the match, also put his hand up as a player to be watched with a brilliant barging try and strong defence and attack whenever he was on the field. If he escapes suspension he should be in the starting team next week.
Scott Dureau came off the bench early in the game and was the principal kicker and chief playmaker from hooker for most of the game. The first choice halfback from last season has bulked up considerably, but he has not lost his zip, with a dummy half run through very heavy traffic being just about the best run of the game.
The Knights ran out 34-26 winners, but the RIP pushed them all the way, and look very unlikely to repeat their disastrous form of last year. I tip them to record their first win next week against Manly.