The Newcastle Knights have exited the 2009 finals race after a 26-12 defeat to the Canterbury Bulldogs in front of 21,000 fans at ANZ Stadium.
The Knights suffered a crucial blow inside the opening minutes with hooker Isaac De Gois forced from the field with a knee injury, but despite this setback they were able to post the first try after 15 minutes through Junior Sau. The Bulldogs were coming up with plenty of possession but were constantly denied by some stubborn and determined Newcastle defence until a piece of magic from Bryson Goodwin set up Josh Morris for the equaliser in the 23rd minute. The introduction of Daniel Holdsworth from the bench made a difference to the Bulldogs and they finished the first half on a roll with two quick tries to Luke Patten opening up a strong 18-6 lead going into the sheds.
The second half followed a very similar script - the Knights scored first before relenting to the Bulldogs pressure and conceding late points. The Knights reduced the gap to 18-12 but lacked the finishing touches to keep the pressure on the home side, while the Bulldogs seemed to be doing just enough to keep their opposition at bay. Hazem El Masri kicked a crucial penalty goal to extend the lead out to 8 points before Ben Hannant secured the result with a powerful try in the shadows of fulltime.
It was a brave effort from Newcastle, ultimately let down by some key injuries and poor decisions under the blowtorch of finals pressure. Discipline was also a problem as Matt Hilder and Richard Fa