Victory was sweet for NSW Cup Newcastle Knights’ coach Matt Lantry who enjoyed a sense of relief on Monday after a spirited 30-26 win over the Mounties that's earned the side a place in the grand final.
While the Knights were first on the scoreboard, led 22-8 at half time and maintained that lead throughout, the Mounties were relentless in the counter attack and came desperately close to snatching a win at the back end of the game.
“It was an exciting game, but not great from a coaching perspective because things got a little bit tight,” Lantry admitted.
“But certainly from a pure spectator point of view it was an exciting battle.
“We got out to any early lead and knew the Mounties would mount some sort of challenge towards the end.
“They scored three tries off kicks which was a little bit frustrating, but credit to our boys that our defensive line held as solid as what it did to ensure we got the win in the end.”
An intercept try by winger Kerrod Holland in the 73rd minute brought Lantry reprieve in the coaches box, but it was the Knights’ determined defensive attitude that delivered the win in the end.
“Between Sparrow (assistance coach/statistician Laurie Clifton) and myself riding Kerrod in the coaches box, and everyone else, he had plenty of weight to carry,” he said with a grin.
“He showed some really good individual turn of speed and for to the line and made it that eight point gap.
“The Mounties still come late with a short kickoff try which made the final two minutes really tense.”
Halfback Jaelen Feeney delivered a man of the match performance and was a stand out for Lantry.
“Jaelen scored three tries and is a great competitor. It was nice to have him back in our team, he was certainly an individual that we missed last weekend," he said.
“To have him with his enthusiasm, his leadership qualities as a halfback around the team to steer the ship, he’s a valuable cog in our team and I know he’ll dish up the same sort of performance next week.”
The do-or-die atmosphere of finals footy has been embraced by the Knights who have shown impressive form since finishing seventh on the NSW Cup competition ladder.
“Momentum is really important at this time of the year,” he said.
“We’ve been playing sudden death semi-final footy and I think that has helped us a little bit.
“Momentum is important, and we are heading in the right direction so have plenty of it.
“The good thing is there’s belief."
After Sunday’s thrilling win,Lantry encouraged the players to appreciate and relish the ecstatic feeling among the team before focus turns to Sunday’s grand final.
“They were really excited and we wanted the players to enjoy the moment, and they certainly did,” he said.
“They have achieved plenty this year and to be in the position to win a grand final, it’s full credit to themselves and the coaching staff who have been involved.
“We are there now to make sure we prepare well and make sure we give ourselves the win on Sunday.
“We’ll keep our routine the same, we’re confident with what we do throughout the week and our preparation so there’s no need to change too much.”
Meanwhile, Damian Sironen has no case to answer after he was reported in Sunday's preliminary final win.
The NSW Cup Knights will train on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday before travelling to the game on Sunday.
Gates open at 11.20am with the NSW Cup grand final kicking off at 4.15pm following the Sydney Shield and Ron Massey Cup.
Adult tickets are just $10, with kids under 12 free. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets now.
Sid Fogg's is planning a NSW Cup grand final bus to Pirtek Stadium which will cost $40 return. A minimum of 25 people are required for the trip to go ahead. Call 49281088 to book or for more details.