Newcastle Knights moved one step closer to finals football after a 22-16 success against Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs tonight at Robina.
It wasn't impressive but it was enough for the Novocastrians. Jake Clifford continued his strong form setting up a four-pointer and scored one himself as the Knights almost certified themselves as a finals side for back-to-back seasons.
The Knights have quietly built up a four-game win streak which has helped them almost coast into the post-season. While other sides have dropped games, the Knights are getting their biggest weapons back - Ponga, Pearce and Best - all ready to go for finals football in a fortnight's time.
Tonight saw one of their unsung heroes lead the charge. Clifford who transferred mid-season from the Cowboys was heavily involved in the Knights best passages of play tonight which included him stepping a pair of Bulldogs defenders to score, making it 16-6.
He also provided the final pass for Bradman Best's four-pointer which put the game to rest at 22-6. Clifford also kicked three goals alongside superb general play kicking which kept the Bulldogs trapped at their own end for a majority of the contest.
From the opening whistle, the Knights looked here to play. Their first attack was chalked off due to Hymel Hunt's foot brushing the sideline but a deft kick from Clifford brought their first try when Jacob Saifiti touched down after Mitchell Barnett's impressive work to make it 6-nil.
Kicking was the best option for the Knights in the first half and it helped them extend their lead out to 10-nil. A deft kick from Clifford worked once again when Enari Tuala touched down to continue his fine form getting across the tryline.
Bulldogs toiled hard and kept themselves in the contest across the whole 80 minutes. One moment of magic from Lachlan Lewis saw Nick Meaney get both hands to the ball and gave them some hope at 10-6 just after half-time.
The wooden spooners did find a late flurry of points to reduce the deficit to six points. On loan Ryan James crashed over right besides the posts then within the final minute winger Jayden Okunbor somehow caught an inswinging kick from Lewis to make it 22-16.
Unfortunately tonight's loss also confirmed the wooden spoon for the proud club. That makes it two spoons in the last three seasons but there is hope on the horizon for the Bulldogs with their recruitment for 2022 and hopefully a few more wins to follow.