The Newcastle Knights have capped off the 2014 season with a comprehensive 40-10 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Buoyed by the emotion and tradition of Old Boys Day, the Knights wrangled a solid victory over the Dragons who sat in 11th place on the ladder, two spots above the Knights.
The Knights came into the game with an unchanged 17-man team however Travis Waddell shifted to starting hooker with Adam Clydsdale moving to the bench.
It was a busy start to the game for Adam Cuthbertson who found early space gifting the Knights a valuable opportunity 10-metres from the opposition's line.
The next play saw Robbie Rochow step around the Dragon’s defence to enable Joseph Leilua to score the side’s first try, a fitting celebration for the 22-year-old’s 100th game milestone.
Gidley added the extras to give the Knights a 6-0 lead in the 5th minute.
In the Dragon’s next attacking play, the side swung the ball from one side of the field to the other but couldn’t executive the play and turned the ball over.
The Dragons forced a goal-line drop out when Beau Scott pulled the Dragons back in goal a following powering 20-metre run from Willie Mason.
Jarrod Mullen side stepped his way over the line for a try off a Mason ball with the successful kick from Gidley bringing the score to 12-0 in the 14th minute.
Leilua was again dazzling the Dragon’s defence breaking through the line for a powering run before being collected in a crunching tackle. He was stretchered off the field and did not return to the field due to concussion, but was cleared of a neck injury.
Before play was back underway, the Knights were awarded a penalty after Josh Dugan stripped the ball from the centre on the ground.
In the next play, an offload from Cuthbertson and cut-out ball to Timana Tahu, who had just replaced Leilua, saw the centre mark his last game with the Knights first grade side with a try. The veteran even celebrating the effort with his trademark slam-dunk over the goal posts.
Gidley nailed the kick from the sideline to bring the Knights lead to 18-0 in the 20th minute.
As the Dragons were awarded a penalty on the Knights’ line, a melee broke out on the wing resulting in Tyrone Roberts and Dragon’s Dugan being sent to the bin for ten.
The Knights were awarded the penalty but the Dragons scored next after working the ball out to left edge to put the captain Brett Morris over in the 30th minute. An unsuccessful kick from Gareth Widdop saw the score 18-4 to the home side.
A Knights error from the ensuing kick-off gave the Dragons another chance, which put Morris over the line for the second time in two minutes, but a gutsy tackle from Mullen dragged the winger over the line before he could ground the ball.
The Knights looked close to adding more points five minutes before the break when Beau Scott charged over the line, but the referee ruled he was held up in goal.
With just minutes to go to in the first half, Sione Mata’utia grounded the try in the corner after Tahu skilfully batted the ball to his young winger.
Gidley added the extras to send the Knights into the sheds with a valuable 24-4 lead.
The Knights came out from the break with an early charging 40-metre run from Dane Gagai, giving the Knights the chance to put Tahu over for his second for the match off a cut-out pass from Mullen.
Gidley’s kick bounced inside the posts to award the Knights a 30-4 lead.
A Newcastle knock-on close to the line saw the Knights on the defence, but they held the hungry Dragons out to return with a 20-metre tap.
It was a frenzy for the Knights when the ball found itself over the line from a kick, missed by winger Chanel Mata'utia to be knocked back by Dragon’s Morris for Gagai and Scott to seemingly simultaneously score however Gagai was awarded the try.
Gidley was unable to make the kick with the Dragons trailing 34-4 in the 50th minute.
A minute later, a long ball from Roberts landed on the chest of Sione gifted the 18-year-old his second try of the match in the corner with Gidley adding an extra two to stretch the lead to 40-4.
Soon after, a grubber kick from Mullen bounced off the goal posts to be collected by Gidley who slid over the line, but the try was disallowed due to obstruction.
The visitors then unsettled the Knights defence to see hooker Kyle Stanley score in a gap. Widdop made the kick to close out the final score at 40-10.
The 30-point win marked a final farewell for departing players Willie Mason, Timana Tahu, Adam Cuthbertson and Travis Waddell.
Newcastle Knights 40 (T: Tahu 2, S Mata’utia 2, Leilua, Mullen, Gagai, G: Gidley 5/6)
St George Illawarra Dragons 10 (T: Morris, Stanley, G: Widdop 1/2)