Ahead of Friday's #NRL game between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, writer Rob C...
58 mins ago
The Newcastle Knights finals chances are still alive, but only just after they escaped with a 28-all draw against North Sydney, after leading 16-0 at the break and 28-4 with twenty minutes remaining. Only poor goal-kicking by the Bears was the saving grace.
In the opening twenty minutes between the two sides, nothing separated them. A twenty-first minute try to Knights winger Blake Tremain-Cannon opened the scoring and the Knights led 4-0 after 22 minutes. That remained the score until a few minutes from half-time, as both sides could not crack the oppositions defence, which has been a problem for Newcastle in previous weeks, as they try to arrest a mid-season form slump in time for them to make the finals. The Bears had their own problems in trying to hang onto the ball, and as a consequence, struggled to have the ball in good field position. In the thirty-third minute, after having possession for a significant amount of time, the Knights cracked the Bears defence through interchange forward Matt Bartlett who crashed over out wide. Dane Campbell's successful conversion had the Knights in front 10-0 with just a few minutes remaining until half-time. The Knights then scored another try through full-back Nathan Hinton from the ensuing kick-off, after great lead up work and after Campbell added the extras, the Knights appeared to be on track for their first win in 3 weeks as they led by 16 points to 0. That remained the scoreline up until the break as the Knights were in control.
The second half was a totally different story. The Knights, up by 16 points, took their foot off the pedal and ultimately paid the price. Prop forward Matt White extended that 16-0 lead out to 22-0 when he crashed over from close range in the 43rd minute and Campbell added the extras. The Knights then appeared to be in cruise control and went through the motions for the remainder of the game. Norths winger Andrew Moodie scored the first of his hat-trick of tries in the 46th minute, to close the gap to 18. The Knights hit back through five-eight Riley Brown in the 53rd minute, after he sold a sensational dummy and crossed beside the posts. Campbell again did the rest and the Knights led by 28-4 and many in the ground thought it was going to be a case of the Knights by how many. The Bears then showed great fighting spirit and centre Namila Davui closed the gap to 28-8 when he crossed in the 58th minute. Again, Retimana missed the conversion. 3 minutes later, Moodie scored out wide after going straight past Knights winger James McManus as if he was not there. It made the score 28-12 and just appeared to be putting respectability into the scoreline. That then became a fallacy as the Bears went in again, through Davui and 28-4 had then become 28-16 and the Bears appeared to be coming home like a freight train. With just 9 minutes remaining, Moodie completed his hat-trick when he once again went straight past McManus and dived over in the corner. Retimana, who had not looked like kicking a single goal all match, converted from the eastern touchline and all of a sudden 28-4 and the Knights in control, had become 28-22 and the wheels were falling off the Newcastle side. The Knights defence, after being so strong in the first half, was being carved up by the Bears, hooker Ben Ellis was making easy metres out of dummy half and half-back Aaron Heremaia was steering the ship sensationally. Then what many Knights fans at the game hoped would not happen, eventually did, when Davui completed his hat-trick in the 75th minute and after Retimana's conversion sailed through the posts, the Bears comeback was complete. In the dying moments, the Knights had a chance to steal victory, but instead of going to halfback Dane Campbell for the field-goal, they went down the blindside and centre Nathan McLoughlin, who was stopped centimetres short of the tryline.
The two sides shared the points, in what was a disappointing second half effort by the Knights, who were lucky not to have been beaten, due to the poor goal-kicking of the Bears. For the Bears, halfback Aaron Heremaia was one who started the comeback with his kicking game continually turning the Knights around. After results of the weekend, the Knights are still just 1 point outside the top 8. They face a must win clash against the fifth-placed Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium on Saturday evening, and should they lose, might just about conclude their year.