The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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A typical winter's day in Newcastle greeted Newcastle and Balmain Ryde in their round 18 encounter. There was a strong south/south-westerly wind blowing down the field when the teams ran out. Newcastle had the benefit of what was most likely a 16-18 point breeze at their backs in the first half and failed to used it.
As the rain continued to sweep intermittently across the ground, the first quarter of the match was a real arm-wrestle affair with both teams just looking for good field position. Balmain were doing a tremendous job considering the circumstances. In the 14th minute, Newcastle halfback went straight through the Balmain defensive line and scored the first points of the match. With his successful conversion the Knights led by 6 points to 0. Just two minutes later, the Balmain side hit straight back through hooker Rangi Chase. The unsuccessful conversion by halfback Jamie Nowland had Balmain Ryde trailing by 6-4. Knights winger Aaron Hartmann extended the home sides lead to 6 when he scored out wide. The unsuccessful conversion from Campbell left the score at 10-4. Inside the final 10 minutes of the first half the Tigers drew level, when hooker Chase scored his second try of the afternoon and Nowland kicked his first goal. A few minutes later, the Tigers hit the lead for the first time in the match after halfback Nowland went through some paper thin Newcastle defence and with his successful conversion of his try, had the Tigers, running into a gale-force wind, leading 16-10. The scoring for the first half was still not quite finished and 90 seconds from the break, Knights utility Daniel Spiteri crossed beside the posts and after Campbell's conversion, the Tigers and Knights went to the break locked up at 16-16.
The brave souls who had turned up to watch the Premier league game had hardly had time to regain their seats for the start of the second half when the Tigers again snuck in front. Winger Joel Caine scored out wide, but the very difficult conversion from Nowland was waved away and the Tigers led 20-16. In the 48th minute, this topsy-turvy match took another twist when Knights hooker Nathan Berry crossed for his sides 4th try of the afternoon and Campbell's conversion had the Knights in front once again. Going into the final quarter of the match, Knights interchange player Nathan McLoughlin extended his sides lead out to 6, but it stayed that way after the unsuccessful conversion from Campbell from out wide. Fourteen minutes from fulltime, Newcastle fullback Nathan Hinton appeared to have put the Knights out of reach of the Tigers when he scored a brilliant try beside the posts after a great inside ball from Dane Campbell. Campbell's conversion had the Knights leading 32-20 with just 14 minutes remaining. The Tigers then scored two tries in just two minutes through halfback Jamie Nowland who scored his second try of the afternoon and interchange forward Luke O'Callaghan. Both were converted by Nowland and with just 5 minutes remaining, the two teams were locked together once again, this time at 32-32. The deadlock was broken just 90 seconds out from fulltime, when the Knights received a penalty 20 metres out, directly in front. The Tigers knocked the ball down and a player, in an offside position, dived on the ball and as a consequence a penalty was awarded. Campbell converted the penalty and the Knights hung on to win 34-32 and stay in the top 8. It was their first win against the Tigers in three attempts.
For the Knights, fullback Nathan Hinton was again outstanding as he picked up the players player. Special mention to Todd Maddison too, who was backing up from representative duties throughout the week.