While the Newcastle Knights had prepared for hot conditions that were thankfully milder than expected in Townsville on Saturday night, Knights centre Dane Gagai says it was the North Queensland Cowboys’ determination to assert themselves from the outset that presented the biggest challenge.
A Cowboys’ onslaught in the first half thrust the Knights onto the back foot early on and saw them trailing the home side into the half-time break.
Yet, Newcastle showed enormous spirit to claw back from a 14-point deficit to turn the game on its head in just over 30 minutes of play.
“I’m happy with the performance, obviously it got a bit scrappy, but we came away with the two points, which made the trip worthwhile,” Dane Gagai said following the match.
For the second week running Gagai accumulated the most metres gained for the Knights with 156 metres in his 80-minute performance, an effort that proved valuable in combatting the opposition’s early advance.
“I think after the first 20 minutes in the first half, they found a bit of momentum with the forward pack they have and Jonathan Thurston playing off the back of that, they were always going to be hard to slow down,” he added.
“Coming out into second half we did what we went there to do."
Despite enjoying less ball possession, it was innovative attack from livewire’s Joey Leilua and Akuila Uate that made the Knights’ hard fight victory materialise.
The gutsy win seemed the ideal way for skipper Kurt Gidley to celebrate his 230th match appearance, which elevated the 32-year-old to the third most capped player at the Club.
“I wasn’t aware of it before the game, but it’s a nice milestone,” Gidley said.
“It’s been good to grow up in Newcastle and play so many games for the Club.
“It was great to get a tough win up there as well.
“We haven’t won up there for the past few years.
“We fought back hard and was not probably one of our prettiest games.”
While the Knights’ acknowledge their error rate is an area for continued improvement, the team made up for discipline mishaps with unwavering determination to conquer the Cowboys and pocket the two competition points.
“We showed plenty of character to get back into the game and win, it’s now two from two which is good,” Gidley added.
“Our two games we’ve come from behind and have been down at half time, so we’ve shown plenty of character and desire to come back in the game.
“We have to make sure we keep it going when we have another away game up at the Goldy.”
Round three presents another trip to Queensland to meet the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Stadium on Sunday.
The match against the Titans will unearth backyard rivalries for Dane Gagai who’s set to match up against his cousin Josh Hoffman in the centres.
“I think Josh has been playing left centre, so that will be the first time I’ll get to mark up against him,” Gagai said.
“He gave it to me when we were growing up as kids so it’s my turn to give it back.”