Newcastle find a way in performance for the ages

Embed from Getty Images
Wests Tigers v Newcastle Knights

A gallant performance against the odds has seen the Newcastle Knights open their 2023 account following a 14-12 victory over the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.

Losing Kalyn Ponga and Jayden Brailey to early concussions, Tyson Frizell with a lower leg injury, along with Jacob Saifiti being sent from the field for a high tackle, the Knights found a way to hold on to the delight of a small contingent of the 13,214 supporters in attendance at Leichhardt Oval.

Withstanding the loss of Ponga after 90 seconds and a wealth of early pressure on their defensive line, the Knights made the most of their first attacking opportunity with replacement playmaker Tyson Gamble and Dane Gagai shifting the ball right to send Dominic Young (10th minute) over for first points.

Going further ahead despite losing Brailey minutes later, the Knights refused to wilt and were rewarded with Gamble firing a brilliant pass to send Lachlan Fitzgibbon (16th minute) over for a try in his 100th game for the club.

The Tigers appeared to score through Asu Kepaoa midway through the half only for the bunker to rule an obstruction, while fan favourite Alex Twal was cruelly denied his maiden try in first grade due to desperate defence from Tyson Frizell.

The Knights were forced to play the final ten minutes of the first half a man down after Young tackled Brent Naden off the ball; the Tigers were finally able to capitalise with Kepaoa (34th minute) sending the home side to the sheds trailing 10-6.

Losing Frizell to a lower leg injury shortly after halftime, the Knights withstood pressure on their goal line after a 40/20 from Luke Brooks and grew in confidence following a superb tackle from Leo Thompson which forced a turnover.

Striking a crucial blow on the hour mark after sustained pressure on their opponents line, the Knights replicated the right side shift of their first try to send Young (61st minute) over for his second try.

Reduced to 12 men for the final 15 minutes after Jacob Saifiti was sent off for a high tackle on Jake Simpkin, the Tigers opted not to kick a penalty goal which would have narrowed the margin to a converted try.

The Tigers set up a grandstand finish with Stefano Utoikamanu (79th minute) crashing over despite doubts over a double movement, however the Knights would not be denied with Brooks unable to execute a two-point field goal on the final play of the game.

In addition to posting consecutive wins at Leichhardt Oval for the first time in a quarter of a century, the Knights retained the Allan McMahon Shield with the 14-12 victory.

Next week, the Tigers will face the Bulldogs at Belmore on Sunday afternoon, while the Knights will play their first home match of the season on Friday evening against the Dolphins.

Wests Tigers 12 - Newcastle Knights 14

Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Lilyfield
Crowd: 13214
Halftime Score: Wests Tigers 6 Newcastle Knights 10 Players of the Match:
3 points - Tyson Gamble
2 points - Daniel Saifiti
1 points - Leo Thompson

Tries: Asu Kepaoa, Stefano Utoikamanu
Field Goals: Luke Brooks (0/1)
Two Point Field Goals: Luke Brooks (0/0)
Conversions: Adam Doueihi (2/2)
Penalty Goals:

Tries: Dominic Young (2), Lachlan Fitzgibbon
Field Goals:
Two Point Field Goals:
Conversions: Jackson Hastings (1/3)
Penalty Goals:

See how it happened in our Match Centre