Awe-inspiring Knights break drought
It was back to the winner's circle in style for the nib Newcastle Knights as they charged to an impressive 30-4 victory over the Parramatta Eels at ANZ Stadium on a chilly Saturday night.
Brilliance off the boot from Jack Cogger got the Knights off to a good start in the first half and the visitors continued to grind their way forward to keep the Eels scoreless at halftime with a 14-point lead.
And the scoring assault continued for the Knights in the second, as they kept a clean sheet almost until the finish, spoiled at the last minute by Josh Hoffman.
An early penalty for the Knights set a handy advantage before a short grubber from Jack Cogger guided Kalyn Ponga to the line, but the fullback knocked it on and the bunker ruled a no try.
Off the left foot, Ponga weighted a kick perfectly to the left side for Ken Sio but he couldn't reach the target and it was knocked dead by the Eels.
Minutes later, another cut-out pass by Ponga just missed Sio again on the left, and it was back in Eels' hands.
In the 14th minute, an impressive display by Cogger... he booted a swirling high ball which ricocheted off Mitch Moses, before the Knights halfback picked up the crumbs to dive over for the first try of the evening. Ponga added the extras and it was Newcastle in the lead, 6-0.
The red and blue were on notice with a penalty 10-metres from their line, but a tight defensive effort helped the Knights gain back possession, before Mitch Moses went down with a leg injury and had to be helped from the field.
27 minutes in, another penalty swayed the Knights way and Ponga opted to take the kick which he slotted from 30 metres out to put the visitors in-front by eight points.
Almost a Knights second as Jamie Buhrer flicked it out the back to Cogger to run it through to the line, but the referee called it back and deemed the tackle had been made. The ball was returned to Parramatta with seven minutes before the halftime siren.
It was back in the bunker again after Lachlan Fitzgibbon crashed over the line, and although it was deemed a knock on, the referee penalised Eels centre Michael Jennings for impeded play. Jennings was slapped with a professional foul and sent to the sin bin for 10 to leave the Eels with just 12 men.
That set the scene for another four-pointer from the Knights, as Danny Levi pumped the ball out of dummy half to Sione Mata'utia who charged through for their second. Ponga nailed the conversion from out front to see Newcastle extend their lead, 14-0 into the break.
In the second, Sio was next in contention to add a try to the Knights tally but he dropped it over the line under added pressure from Eels enforcer Nathan Brown.
The boot of Ponga set up another pearler for the Knights, and while it was headed for Fitzgibbon, a tip from the Eels in-goal allowed Sio to grab and ground it for Newcastle's third 46 minutes in. The kick was on point from Ponga and it was 20-0 to the Knights.
A heavy hit forced Chris Heighington to the sidelines, with Tepai Moeroa put on report before Daniel Saifiti came charging through the pack to muscle his way to the line and record his fifth try for the season. Ponga added two more and it was a 26-0 ball game to the Knights.
The Eels edged closer to the line but the Knights denied any points with a heavy hit from big man Saifiti who forced the dropped ball and minutes later it was in the hands of Sio who broke free and sprinted 50 metres down field before being tackled.
In the 68th minute, the momentum was all one way as Watson burst through a gap in defence to glide his way over and stretch the lead out to 30-0.
With five minutes on the clock, Hoffman side stepped his way through for the Eels first try of the night. Clint Gutherson missed the conversion and it was 30-4 to the Knights.
Knights 30 (T: Cogger, Mata'utia, Sio, Saifiti, Watson G: Ponga 4/5, PG: Ponga 1/1)
Eels 4 (T: Hoffman G: Gutherson 0/1)