Newcastle Knights confirmed their spot in the NRL finals after a tense 15-14 success against Gold Coast Titans tonight on the Sunshine Coast.
Mitchell Pearce slotted a late field goal to seal the Knights one-point success which makes it five straight wins for the Newcastle Knights as they head into back-to-back finals appearances with one round to spare.
It wasn't a fluid attacking game from the Knights but their superstar fullback stood up tonight. Kalyn Ponga scored the Knights first four-pointer to make it 6-6 before he laid on another in the second half to halfback Pearce to get them back in the contest.
Ponga showed that if the Knights are to go deep into September, they will need the Queenslander firing. He popped up mostly on the right where he partnered with Hymel Hunt and Kurt Mann several times while Bradman Best didn't have his best game with the ball.
Gold Coast Titans knew the scenario headed into tonight. They started the contest positively with the first try through Phillip Sami after the bust from energetic backrower Beau Fermor before Jamal Fogarty kicked them ahead to 6-nil from a penalty goal.
The Titans were composed with the football and completed a majority of their sets in the first half. They finished the half with a bang when star signing David Fifita crusaded down the edge and bustled through several Knights defenders to make it 12-6 at the break.
Knowing that a fifth success on the trot could confirm finals football, the Knights turned up the tempo in the second half. Mitch Pearce was assured with his kicking game, including kicking a 40/20, before he brought the Knights level off a sublime Ponga pass at 12-all.
Desperation stakes rose in the final 15 minutes. Both teams traded penalty goals to give us a 14-all scoreline headed into the final ten minutes. Titans only ended up with a single shot at field goal through the unlikely Patrick Herbert which spewed wide. It gave the Knights the field position for Pearce to calmly slot the one-pointer to make it 15-14 and head into the post-season.
Now the equation gets tricky for the Titans to make the top eight. They need the Sharks and Raiders to lose their games this weekend and Titans need to win their final round contest against the nomadic Warriors to justify their spending for 2021. Knights can relax and enjoy their final round game before finals football.