The Newcastle Knights were beaten 20-12 by the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was a see-sawing affair between two teams desperate for a win, but in the end the Tigers proved to be more composed in the latter stages of the second half to close out the win.
The Knights again had several late changes, while fullback Dane Gagai put in a solid performance in his 100th NRL match. Young Daniel Saifiti meanwhile was phenomenal, making 237 metres from 19 runs in 47 minutes up front.
The Tigers had several early line breaks and penalties that gave them the lion’s share of attacking opportunities, and five-eighth Mitchell Moses capitalised in the tenth minute when he bamboozled the Knights’ defence with his footwork to get over the line.
Seven minutes later Jake Mamo lost possession 20 metres out from his own line to give the home side another chance at points, but in the following play Akuila Uate showed great composure to make a one-on-one tackle and stop a certain try.
The Knights got their first real chance to attack the Tigers’ line in the 23rd minute with the help of two quick penalties, but a bullet pass from Trent Hodkinson ricocheted out of Pauli Pauli’s arms just short of the line.
In the very next set hooker Matt Ballin had a try disallowed when a kick proved just too far out of reach for him, but a penalty in the build up saw the Tigers get a goal via Jordan Rankin to make the score 8-0.
With nine minutes left in the first half the Knights’ right edge defence showed plenty of commitment to force a repeat set when they forced Josh Addo-Carr back in goal.
There was some great attacking flair in the following set when Saifiti managed to offload to Jeremy Smith, who then looped a pass over several defenders for Trent Hodkinson to score his first try in Knights colours. The halfback converted to take the score to 8-6, but soon after a high tackle on JJ Felise gave the Tigers another two points via a penalty goal.
Early in the second half two repeat sets on the Tigers’ line for the Knights saw them grab their second try, Gagai dummying his way through the line to score his 30th NRL try in his 100th match. Hodkinson again converted to put the Knights into the lead for the first time.
Mamo came close to extending the Knights’ lead with 25 minutes to play when a cross-field kick from Hodkinson found him in the corner. He wasn’t quite able to get it down with some close attention from the Tigers’ defence though, and seven minutes later the Tigers were over for their second via Addo-Carr.
Rankin converted to push the score to 16-12, and eight minutes later the Tigers were over again via halfback Luke Brooks.
Soon after Tyler Randell looked as though he may have scored a try when Saifiti made a late pass on the line, but the video bunker ruled that Randell had knocked it on in the build up.
The Knights continued to push for more points, but the final score remained 20-12.
Wests Tigers 20
Knights 12 (T: Hodkinson, Gagai, G: Hodkinson 2/2)