The Newcastle Knights looked strong in their 34-14 trial win over the Canberra Raiders at Scully Park in Tamworth on Saturday night.
Coach Wayne Bennett made a number of positional changes at kick off, including Darius Boyd to five-eighth and Dane Gagai to fullback.
The halves combination for the first half of Tyrone Roberts and Darius Boyd looked comfortable while Gagai was solid at fullback.
The match also signalled the early return of Kurt Gidley, who played the final quarter at five-eighth.
The Knights took a 12-10 lead into half time before running away with a 20-point win in front of a good crowd in Tamworth.
It was Gagai from fullback who got the Knights into an attacking position after making a break that led to first points.
It was a few plays later, Roberts passed to Leilua on the left edge, who attracted the two defenders to put James McManus over untouched in the corner. With Roberts’ sideline conversion, the Knights led 6-0 early.
Leilua looked to be over the line himself minutes later however the final pass from Robbie Rochow was ruled forward.
The Raiders hit back at around the 20-minute mark through winger Edrick Lee after the Knights let a high ball bounce near their line. Jarrod Croker was unable to add the extras and the Knights kept a two-point lead.
Both teams crossed the line before half time, Akuila Uate for the Knights off a Roberts’ kick to the corner and Croker for the Raiders.
A number of changes were made at half time, including Dobson replacing Roberts at halfback and Chad Redman on for Travis Waddell at hooker. Boyd remained at five-eighth and Gagai at fullback.
The Knights improved on the 12-10 half time score with three unanswered tries in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.
Leilua ran across field before straightening up to beat a number of defenders to score under the posts. Redman then who found space down the middle to put the ball down before Jake Mamo showed his pace to score in the corner.
It was a happy return for Gidley, who entered the game and with his second touch, he added his name to the scoresheet. It was around this time, Uate moved to fullback and Gagai return to the centres.
The Raiders got one back right on the fulltime siren through Sami Sauiluma to make it 34-14 scoreline at full time.
It was a solid hit-out for the red and blue as they finalise preparations and combinations for round one.
There was one injury concern out of the game with forward Zane Tetevano suffering a suspected broken hand.
Full Time from Scully Park
Newcastle Knights 34 (T: McManus, Uate, Leilua, Redman, Mamo, Gidley, G: Roberts 2/2, Dobson 3/4)
Canberra Raiders 14 (T: Lee, Croker, Sauiluma, G: Croker 1/3)