The Reserve Grade Newcastle Knights were just pipped at the post, 34-32 by Illawarra at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Despite an instant opening try from the Knights, Illawarra recovered quickly to pile on 24 points by half time. Despite a 26-point comeback in the second stanza, a penalty kick just before the siren saw the Knights go down by two-points.
The starting siren barely sounded before Knights fullback Nick Meaney crossed over. He converted his own try for Newcastle to lead 6-0.
In the 22nd minute, a handy off-load to Patrick Herbert saw him cross over for Illawarra’s first. Jai Field booted the conversion to level it 6-all.
Minutes later Illawarra’s Jack Payne followed a clever grubber to ground it in-goal before a sneaky pass out the back gave the visitors a clear run to the line as Field finished it off five minutes before half time to lead 18-6.
In the last 30 seconds, Illawarra pushed their lead further going out wide to Matheson Johns. The kick was good and the visitors went into the break 24-6 in front.
In the 45th minute, Pasami Saulo muscled his way through several defenders to get his second try in ISP. The Knights trailed 24-12.
A penalty allowed Field to kick for two points for Illawarra before Newcastle five-eighth Jaelen Feeney came charging through with an impressive try in the 57th minute. Meaney nailed the conversion for the home side to be down 26-18.
The Knights continued to close the gap as winger Thomas Cronan reached out to ground a handy grubber 64 minutes in, before minutes later Jacob Gagan gathered the crumbs of a high kick to slam the ball across the line and level the scores 26-all.
In the 71st minute, Feeney got himself in a handy position to take the ball and sprint it to the line. Meaney booted the conversion to see the Knights take the lead, 32-26.
Illawarra quickly replied via fullback Jordan Pereira to level the scores at 32-all before a penalty saw Field kick for the lead. Illawarra win 34-32.
Newcastle Knights 32 (T: Meaney, Saulo, Feeney 2, Cronan, Gagan, G: Meaney 4/6)
Illawarra 34 (T: Herbert, Payne, Field, Johns, Pereira, G: Field 5/5, PG: Field 2/2)
1. Nick Meaney, 2. Tom Hughes, 3. Brendan Elliot, 4. Jacob Gagan, 5. Thomas Cronan, 6. Jaelen Feeney, 7. Jack Cogger, 15. Faitotoa Faitotoa, 14. Will Pearsall, 21. Mickey Paea, 11. Sam Stone, 12. Braden Robson, 13. Bradie Smith. Interchange: 8. Tyrone Amey, 16. Pat Mata’utia, 17. Pasami Saulo, 23. Tom Starling.
20.Jordan Pereira, 19. Jai Field, 3. Patrick Herbert, 4. Matheson Johns, 21. Taane Milne, 6. Adam Clune, 7. Jack Payne, 8. Jacob Hind, 14. Samuel Clune, 10. Blake Lawrie, 11. Will Matthews, 12. Luciano Leilua, 13. Hame Sele. Interchange. 15. Jesse Dee, 16. Joshua Kerr, 17. Rhys Kennedy, 18. Cooper Purcell.