The reserve grade Newcastle Knights stirred a second half comeback to topple the unbeaten Wentworthville Magpies in the team’s first win of the season on Sunday at Ringrose Park.
“It was nice to get the monkey off the back with the first win of the season and hopefully we can take that performance into North Sydney who we play for the second time,” coach Matt Lantry said on Tuesday.
“Character has never been an issue in the team and right throughout the last three weeks we’ve always competed hard.
“It’s just been our execution that has let us down and again it was a similar story in the first half against Wenty.
By the halftime break Wentworthville built a 14-point lead with the Knights kept scoreless.
“There were seven errors by half time which is clearly not good enough and when you give anyone that amount of possession, you’re always going to struggle,” he explained.
“I thought in our second half 17 from 20 and 85 per cent completion rate told a story there.
“Whilst our execution can still be better with the footy, we gave ourselves an opportunity to score some points and did that for a big portion in the second half.”
The tide had turned in the second half with the Knights displaying a much tidier brand of football.
The Knights also benefitted from the first grade experience of Jack Stockwell who played his first game of the season with the side after recovering from injury.
“When he went back for that second period I thought he (Stockwell) was tremendous. He got the team going forward and that’s really where our platform was established, from our middle going forward from the middle third,” he said.
“Our outside backs played some good footy off the end of that.
Special mentions also went to James Elias and Tekina Vailea.
“James Elias was tremendous at right centre and did a great job on Ryan Morgan who is an established NRL centre,” he said.
“Tekina Vailea had his best game by far this year.”
“We can certainly take some confidence from it. The greatest thing is that we ensure our second half performance is a benchmark for us.
“It’s crucial we maintain at least 50 per cent possession, and if we get that, we’ll trouble most sides.”
Meanwhile fullback Jaelen Feeney acknowledged the match was a challenging battle up front.
“It was a really tough match and was definitely a forwards game,” he said.
“Our forwards and their forwards both stood up.
“We found ourselves down 14-nil and we knew they had a lot of ball in the first half and that if we held the ball we could put points on them.
“Full credit to the boys and the resilience we they showed.
“We showed good fight back to win and to get back into the game.”
Feeney described a change in attitude at half time that enabled the Knights to overcome their opposition.
“Matty (Lantry) just said they had a 103 play count to our 73 and only put 14 points on us and whenever we looked good with the ball, we could put points on them,” he said.
“We knew if we held the ball and defended well we could win.
“We kept them scoreless and is a really big challenge and a great effort for the boys.
“They are a classy team and are undefeated so far.”
Feeney, who boasts recent experience in the NRL, believes the reserve grade side will look to carry the confidence of Sunday’s win into their Round 5 clash against the North Sydney Bears.
“We have a lot of young players who haven’t versed men before coming out of 20s, so it’s good to get a win against a classy team and the confidence they will take from that will be a really big bonus this year,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get some redemption on the Bears who beat us in Round 1.”