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The Newcastle Knights have bounced back to the winners' table after a second-half thriller at Hunter Stadium. The young-gun Knights rose to the challenge of overcoming the reigning premiers with a 16-12 victory. The 15,468 strong crowd were left on the edge of their seats in the dying minutes of the game as the both teams played hot potato with the football.
An early penalty to the Sydney Roosters lead to a soft try in the opening minute - scored by none other than the Roosters' captain and fullback Anthony Minichiello. The Knights' defenders ran and abruptly stopped as though they were hit by a brick wall of air. Minichiello capitalised and flew right past them, getting the ball over the line. James Maloney produced the goods with the conversion and the Roosters led 6-0 at the 3rd minute.
The rest of the first half proved to be a tug of war between the rookies and the veterans. At the 15 minute mark, Maloney and Knights debutant Sione Mata'utia foot-raced to collect the footy like primary school students who wanted to be at the front of the canteen line. Maloney was looking to score a try and Mata'utia aiming to save conceding one. A scramble with the footy lead to a 'no try' decision by the video referee. You can breathe now, Newcastle fans.
'Everything was coming up Milhouse' for the Roosters at the 22nd minute, with the Knights giving away a penalty five metres out from their own line. Unfortunately for the Bondi boys, the contest for the possible try led to another 'no try' decision by the video ref.
Sloppy plays and mistakes from both sides also made the battle more difficult in soggy and windy conditions, with Roosters' superstar winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck dropping a bomb at the 29th minute. A couple of minutes later, a mistake from the Knights also lead to a drop-ball at the 35m line, however, this one was costly as Maloney again came up with ball and crossed over, though again he was ruled held up.
A solid defensive effort by the Knights meant that they went into halftime down by just six points. The Sydney Roosters were aiming to maintain their new-found form, but the Knights' goal was to bounce back from their loss last week - the second half was going to be an important 40 minutes of football.
Four minutes after coming back from the sheds, the Knights managed to dive over the line. However, in desperate attempts to keep the ball alive on the last play, the final pass turned out to be forward from Robbie Rochow to Jake Mamo, deflating the Knights' confidence.
It was back and forth between both teams, before Knights young-gun Tyrone Roberts crossed the line and got a four-pointer at the 60th minute. This was overshadowed by the simultaneous sin-binning of Roosters player Jared Warea-Hargreaves who was disrespecting the referee. Centre Dane Gagai converted the try so it was neck and neck with 20 minutes to go.
A boost of confidence meant another Knights try just four minutes later as a result of a magical offload by Willie Mason. Tyrone Roberts went in for a double, although Gagai could not repeat the same magic with his kick for the conversion. The score was 10-6 with a thrilling 15 minutes to go.
The Roosters bounced back at the 72nd minute, with Frank Paul-Nu'uausala crossing over. Maloney kicked for cash right over the black dot and it looked like it was game over for the Knights with the Roosters leading 12-10.
One of the things we've learnt as rugby league fans is not to assume it is game over when the clock hits the 75th minute. Game over is at the 80th minute (extra time notwithstanding). As I was starting to breathe and look at what was left of my nails, young Knights' halfback Tyrone Roberts created an opportunity for Joseph Leilua with a crafty grubber in the 79th, just as the crowd was falling off their seats in anticipation. The video referee was asked to check the onside and grounding... then the green lights flashed up, causing a simultaneous 'YYEEAAAHH!' from the crowd - well, the Knights supporters, anyway. The halfback converted the try, adding a cherry on top of the sweet miracle try.
Desperate attempts from the Roosters in the final minute mimicked a game of hot potato, but their heroics did not pay off as the final siren sounded. The bottom-of-the-ladder Knights managed to steal the victory from the reigning premiers in an intense thriller at Newcastle. A miraculous 16-12 victory to the rookies gave them a well-earned confidence boost. You know what they say, once you've hit rock-bottom, the only way you can go is up.
Next week the Knights will head to tropical north Queensland, where they face the Rabbitohs in Cairns. For the Roosters it's time to head home to Allianz and don their Captain America strip in Round 21 where they'll face the "Iron Man" St. George Illawara Dragons as part of a Marvel Heroes promotion by manufacturer ISC Sports.
TGIF! It's officially the weekend, and what better way to kick it off than with a classic Friday night rugby league battle. The struggling Newcastle Knights aim to bounce back to the winning table in front of their home crowd, whilst the reigning premiers strive to keep their new-found form alive at the pointy end of the season.
Newcastle Knights: brothers Sione and Chanel Mata'utia on debut tonight, with Sione replacing Darius Boyd at fullback. Chanel replaces Uate on the wing, with James Mamo replacing James McManus on the wing.
1: Penalty to Roosters - Willie Mason with a high shot
1: POSSIBLE TRY TO ROOSTERS - Video ref checking onside
1: TRY SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Scored by Anthony Minichiello. Kick to come.
Easy try for the Roosters
4: Penalty to the Knights and they find touch
5: Butterfingers ... Knock-on by the Knights, Roosters come up with the ball at the half-way line
8: Roosters scrum
9: Pearce kicks it high, but Mamo has covered it. Knights now 30m out from their own line
10: SBW almost with a break but bombs it... Knights feed from the scrum
15: Possible try to Maloney - video ref reviewing the grounding... Mata-utia and Maloney looking like they're running to be first in line at the canteen at lunch time
15: NO TRY!! Ruled as a knock-on... Knights feed from the scrum
16: Penalty to the Knights
16: Penalty to the Knights - 5m out from the line
20: Bit of a controversial penalty to the Roosters... B. Scott interfering with the play the ball
22: Penalty to the Roosters, 5m out from their line... Everything's coming up Milhouse for the Roosters.
23: POSSIBLE TRY TO THE ROOSTERS - video ref checking the contest.
24: No try... And the tug-of-war continues
29: Tuivasa-Sheck drops the bomb... Knights feed 40m out from the line.
32: Knights lose the ball, Roosters scrum 35m out
33: POSSIBLE TRY TO JAMES MALONEY... going upstairs to have a look at the grounding
33: NO TRY... held up...
36: Penalty to Knights. Held too long... Knights with a chance as they are 7m out from the line
36: Knights can't capitalise but their defense has been awesome
40: Roosters lead the Knights at half-time 6-0. Early try from the Roosters brought them the lead, however there have been plenty of opportunities for both teams during the half but unable to capitalise. Solid defence from the Knights. Can they keep it up in the second half?
40: Second half about to commence... Let's see who can withstand the wind!
40: Knights kick on the 3rd... Look like they're going to stick to their "kick early and chase" mentality through this weather!
44: Knights desperate to keep the ball alive and almost had a try but the ball was ruled forward. Don't you hate when that happens?
48: Penalty to the Roosters... offside Knights player
50: Knights kick on last but I failed to see the chase... Roosters come up with the ball
51: Roosters give away a penalty... Knights tap 30m out
55: Both Sione and Chanel Mata'tuia having a blinder on their debut!
55: Knights have a break, almost all the Roosters are offside
60: SIN BIN
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is sent to the sin bin.
DISRESPECTING THE REF... JWH sent to the naught corner! Ref says he can't repeat what JWH because he has a mic on
60: TRY NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Scored by Tyrone Roberts. Kick to come.
Finally the Knights get over!! The contest is on!
60: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Conversion attempt by Dane Gagai successful.
And they're back at it!
64: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Conversion attempt by Dane Gagai unsuccessful.
Uh oh... Gagai misses the conversion. This might bite them back later, but Knights have the lead so far 10-6
69: Jared Warea-Hargraves back on... 10 mins to goi
70: 10 mins to go actually
70: Nuuasala in for a possible try!!
72: TRY SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Scored by Frank Paul Nuuausala. Kick to come.
Roosters back in it!! The tug-o-war continues... I wonder what exciting twist will happen next
72: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Conversion attempt by James Maloney successful.
Maloney kicks for cash right above the black dot... I told you Gagai's missed conversion will bite them later.
76: I looked down at my nails for 5 seconds, look back up and there;s a Battle Royal in the middle of the ring. Thank goodness for replays!
76: Penalty to the Knights...Friend instigates a little brawl
79: T Roberts creates an opportunity!! Going upstairs... Onside and grounding look good!
79: TRY NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Scored by Joseph Leilua. Kick to come.
AND NEWCASTLE SNATCH THE LEAD...
79: SUCCESSFUL CONVERSION NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Conversion attempt by Tyrone Roberts successful.
Roberts gets it over
80: FULL TIME AND KNIGHTS STEAL THE WIN IN THE DYING MINUTES... Thanks for playing, kids!