Inspired by a spirited captain's knock from hooker Danny Levi, the Newcastle Knights NYC team continued their winning ways with a comfortable 48-28 victory over the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium on Saturday.
In a highly entertaining match with plenty of points, Levi led the way for the Knights with two tries and a number of big plays in defence.
The crafty No.9 was well supported by back-rower Joe Tapine, who bagged a hat-trick of tries, while centre Sione Mata'utia maintained his strong form with a try and a heap of effort.
Newcastle remains undefeated and on top of the Holden Cup ladder after six rounds of the 2014 season.
The Knights will look to uphold their high standards when they host the Brisbane Broncos next week at Hunter Stadium in a Good Friday blockbuster.
Newcastle made two changes before kick-off with Sam Keenan named at five-eighth to replace Jacob Gagai who was rested.
Nathan Lo Monaco replaced James De Saxe on a four-man interchange bench.
Canberra opened the scoring in the first set following a try to halfback Andrew Heffernan.
The No.7 dived on a loose ball, which was knocked down by the Knights to score.
Captain Patrick Mago missed the kick from the sideline, but it was the Raiders with an early 4-0 lead.
In a fast-paced match, Newcastle hit back just two minutes later via centre Josh Birch.
Bryce Donovan missed the kick, but the scores were locked at 4-all after seven minutes.
The Knights may have looked a bit rusty early on, but they soon found their groove with strong charges through the forwards.
Prop Jah Pakau capitalised on this momentum when he barged over from close range in the 14th minute.
Donovan converted to give Newcastle a 10-4 lead.
The Knights added to this advantage just two minutes later when centre Chance Peni swooped on a drop ball from the Raiders to score in southern corner.
Donovan failed to convert the try, but Newcastle was cruising with a 14-4 lead.
The Knights were in complete control of the match and skipper Danny Levi ensured it stayed that way with a burrowing run to the line to score in the 20th minute.
Donovan converted from right in front to give Newcastle a commanding 20-4 advantage with 17 minutes remaining in the first half.
Canberra might have struggled for much of the first half, but they refused to give in and responded with a great individual try to five-eighth Michael Frawley in the 25th minute.
Frawley beat four Newcastle defenders on a swerving run to the line.
Back-rower Scott Doyle added the extras from the sideline to reduce the Knights’ lead to 20-10 with 14 minutes left in the first half.
Canberra looked to be fighting their way back into the match, but a vital error coming out of their own end proved costly.
Newcastle made the Raiders pay when skipper Levi scored another try from close range.
Donovan added the extras to give the Knights a 26-10 lead with 10 minutes on the clock in the first half.
The men in red-and-blue continued their dominance when second-rower Joe Tapine finished off a slick backline move.
Donovan was again faultless with the kick and Newcastle was charging with a 30-10 lead.
Canberra responded with two quick tries in the closing stages of the half via fullback Ricky Garard and centre Jack Creith, but it was the Knights who went to the break leading 30-18.
Newcastle had the dream start to the second half when centre Sione Mata’utia leaped above the Canberra defence from a Sam Keenan kick to score.
Donovan added the extras with a spectacular kick from the sideline to extend the lead to 36-18 with 35 minutes left in the match.
Every time Newcastle looked to kick ahead of Canberra, the Green Machine responded with a try and they did it again in the 47th minute.
Mago did it all himself from close range and Doyle converted to make the score 36-24 with half-an-hour still to play.
The Canberra captain crossed again in the 58th minute with a strong charge to the line.
Doyle missed the conversion from out wide, but the Raiders were well and truly back in the match trialling 36-28 with 20 minutes left in the match.
Canberra had all the momentum and had a chance to score again in the 62nd minute, but were ruled to knock the ball on in the Knights' in goal area.
This call gave Newcastle a boost and back-rower Tapine did the rest with a determined run to the line.
Donovan added the extras from in front to give the Knights some breathing space again with a 42-28 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
Tapine bagged his third try in the 74th minute with another determined run to the line. Donovan converted and Newcastle were back in control leading 48-28 with five minutes left on the clock.
Mamo was on the end of a late high shot after retrieving a bomb in his own in goal in the 76th minute, but the Gosford-born flying shook off the contact to finish the game.
Canberra never gave up, but it was the Knights that proved too strong when it mattered most.
Knights: Mamo, Donovan, Mata’utia, Peni, Birch, Keenan, Feeney, Pakau, Levi, Yates, Tapine, Pondekas, Fitzgibbon. Bench: Lo Monaco, Smith, Boyce, Petterson-Robati.
Raiders: Garard, Clarke, Lee, Creith, Hurst, Frawley, Pangai Junior, Schubach, Barnett, Mago, Doyle, Bateman. Bench: Webley, Baker, Solomon, Nchouki.
Newcastle Knights 48 (T: Tapine 3, Levi 2, Birch, Pakau, Peni, Mata’utia, G: Donovan 6/9)
Canberra Raiders 28 (T: Mago 2, Heffernan, Frawley, Garard, Creith, G: Mago 0/1, Doyle 2/5)