A brave second-half comeback wasn't enough the Newcastle Knights NYC side in a thrilling 28-22 loss to the Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
On the back of numerous errors in the opening 40 minutes, the Knights failed to contain a potent Tigers outfit led by star hooker Manaia Cherrington.
Inspired by Cherrington's crafty running from dummy half, the away side charged to a commanding 20-6 lead at the break.
The men in red and blue showed plenty of courage with three tries in the second half to reduce the deficit to just two points with 10 minutes remaining, but in the end it wasn't enough to get the two competition points.
The six-point defeat is the Knights' third consecutive loss and relegates them back to third position on the Holden Cup ladder after 13 rounds.
On a positive note for Newcastle, halfback Jaelen Feeney got through the match unscathed in his first game back from a rib injury.
The Knights will look to return to the winner's next Saturday when they take on the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
Newcastle made a number of positional changes prior to kick-off.
Jaelen Feeney made his return from a rib injury at halfback, while Tuiala Togiatasi started at prop with James Taylor relegated to the bench.
The Tigers had the dream start to the match when they opened the scoring after just three minutes via centre and captain Nathan Milone.
Milone leapt high to collect a perfectly weighted Te Maire Martin kick to plant the ball down.
Lock Matthew Woods added the extras to give the Tigers an early 6-0 lead.
Newcastle received their first opportunity with the football five minutes later, but couldn’t crack the Tigers’ determined defence.
The Knights were coming up with basic errors and the away side made them pay after 13 minutes when winger John Ogden dived over in the western corner.
Woods missed the sideline conversion, but was the Tigers who had jumped out to a handy 10-0 buffer.
Newcastle’s poor ball control continued minutes later when fullback Bryce Donovan dropped a Tigers’ bomb.
This allowed the Tigers to extend their lead via hooker Manaia Cherrington, who barged over from close range after 17 minutes.
Woods added the extras to give the away side a commanding 16-0 lead.
The Tigers had a great chance to add to their advantage after 25 minutes via winger John Tohi, but the Knights’ defence held strong.
As hard as the home side were trying though, basic errors were proving costly.
On the back of another mistake, the Tigers crossed again via replacement forward Matt Lodge.
Woods missed the conversion, but his side were in charge leading 20-0 with four minutes remaining in the first half.
Newcastle hit back on the stroke of halftime via centre Sione Mata’utia, who jumped high to score from a Jacob Gagai cross-field kick.
Donovan converted to reduce the Tigers’ lead to 20-6 at the break.
The Knights received the perfect chance to respond three minutes into the second half, but prop Luke Yates couldn't hold the ball with the try line in sight.
The Tigers then crossed again after 52 minutes via centre Watson Heleta, who proved too strong from close range.
Woods missed the conversion, but it was the away side in control leading 24-6 with 25 minutes remaining.
The Knights refused to go away though and scored via winger Josh Birch in the 58th minute. Donovan nailed the conversion from the sideline to reduce the Tigers' lead to 24-12 with 20 minutes left on the clock.
Newcastle were coming home strongly and crossed again with 14 minutes left through halfback Feeney. Donovan converted to make the score 24-18 with 13 minutes remaining.
The Knights scored again minutes later via winger Brodie Lam to reduce the Tigers lead to just two points with nine minutes left on the clock.
Newcastle centre Mata'utia looked to have scored in the 72nd minute, but it was ruled no try due to a double movement.
The Tigers regained control minutes later when winger Tohi grabbed his second try. Woods missed the conversion, but the away side held onto a slender six-point lead with just two minutes remaining.
Newcastle had their chances to win the match late in proceedings, but couldn't crack the Tigers' line.
Newcastle Knights 22 (T: Mata’utia, Birch, Feeney, Lamb, G: Donovan: 3/4)
Wests Tigers 28 (T: Milone, Ogden, Cherrington, Lodge, Heleta, Tohi, G: Woods: 2/6)
Donovan, Lam, Mata'utia, Peni, Birch, Gagai, Feeney, Togiatasi, Levi (c), Yates, Tapine, Fitzgibbon, Petterson-Robati. Interchange: Pondekas, Taylor, Pakau, Boyce.
Farrell, Tohi, Heleta, Milone (c), Ogden, Martin, Levido, Graham, Cherrington, Grant, Funaki, Liolevave, Woods. Interchange: Masila, Cassel, Kazzi, Lodge.