The Newcastle Knights NSW Cup has earned a gutsy victory over the Newtown Jets after playing the majority of the match with just 12 men.
The Knights, who had qualified for the finals regardless of the result, brought a steely determination from the outset to prove their dominance over the 10th placed Newtown side.
Disadvantaged from early on in the match after Chad Redman was sent off for a late shot on Scott Dureau, the Knights powered on to secure 26-24 win.
Newtown however scored three quick tries in the final 20 minutes to see the game go down to the wire.
The Jets asserted themselves with an early try in the corner for centre Matt Evans. When Nathan Stapleton missed the conversion, the Jets led 4-0.
Nathan Ross looked to score next, but the try was disallowed due to an obstruction.
The Knights continued to pressure and were eventually rewarded when Brayden Willame crossed in the corner. Michael Dobson and James Elias worked hard to set up their winger.
An outstanding kick from the sideline by Josh Mantellato in windy conditions put the Knights in front 6-4, after 27 minutes.
Shortly after, Chad Redman was sent off for a forearm to Scott Dureau and the Knights were forced to play the remainder of the match a man down.
Newtown made the home side pay immediately, spreading the ball wide for Junior Vaivai to score in the corner. Stapleton missed the conversion but the Jets took an 8-6 lead after 32 minutes.
The Knights looked to hit back when Pat Mata’utia burrowed over from dummy half but it was ruled he was held up.
As the half time siren loomed, Newtown were in for a certain try when Jack Sietka slipped through the defence, but Ross’ last ditch effort to take down the forward dislodged the ball and he bombed it over the line.
The Knights went to the sheds trailing Newtown by two points, 8-6.
After an uncharacteristic error from Ross, Newtown was given an early opportunity in the second half, but scrambling defence thwarted the opposition’s attack. The error was compounded when Matt Minto was then placed on report for a dangerous tackle.
The Knights held on and then turned defence into attack when Pat Mata’utia scooped up a loose ball to run 50m before he was pulled down.
On the next play, a pass from Minto put Ross over in the corner and the Knights took the lead. Dobson added the extras from the sideline to give the Knights a 12-8 lead after 48 minutes.
A high tackle from Minto gave the Jets a good chance, but a bombed try saw the ball back in the Knights hands and on the attack.
With 22 minutes to play, Dobson put Clint Newton into space for a powering run to find his centre Elias to finish it off. Mantellato nailed the conversion to extend the Knights lead to 18-8.
Two consecutive penalties gave the Knights valuable field possession and the home team opt for a Mantellato goal. The Knights led 20-8 with 15 minutes to play.
Following a gutsy defensive effort, the ball was back with the Knights and it ended up with Elias crossing for his second.
Mantellato backed up his effort with a successful conversion give the Knights a 26-8 in the 72nd minute.
But the Jets were not ready to give up, scoring three quick tries.
Scott Dureau scored a near length of the field try, with Ross hot on his heels and added the extras himself to bring the score to 26-14.
They were in again just two minutes after with a second try to Vaivai, converted by Dureau to narrow the Knights lead to 26-20 with four minutes to go.
The Jets got within two when Jonathon Reuben crossed, but an unsuccessful kick gave the Knights a 26-24 win.
NSW CUP SUMMARY
Newcastle Knights 26 (T: Elias 2, Wiliame, Ross, G: Mantellato 3/3, Dobson 1/1, P: Mantellato 1/1)
Newtown Jets 24 (T: Vaivai 2, Evans, Dureau, Reuben, G: Stapleton 0/2, Dureau 2/3)
Ross, Mantellato, P Mata'utia, Elias, Wiliame, Minto, Dobson, Mataora, Redman, Vaivai, Newton, Randell, Hilder. Bench: Horwood, Steele, Underwood, Likiliki.