Some Nick Meaney magic, tough displays from a returning Lachlan Fitzgibbon and an outstanding showing by Mitch Barnett in his 50th match, guided the nib Newcastle Knights to a nail biting 30-24 win against the Gold Coast Titans at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In a whirlwind first half that saw young fullback Meaney record a try assist and his first NRL try, the Knights were within two points but despite an early charge from the visitors in the second half, the Knights clawed their way back to edge out a six-point victory.
It was an end to end tussel for the opening ten minutes before a clever boot to ball by Meaney guided Mitch Barnett to the line in his 50th match. Ken Sio couldn't bend the ball through the uprights and it was the Knights 4-0 in the lead.
In an aerial display, Titans winger Anthony Don received a short ball on the right edge to dive over and ground the ball in the corner. Michael Gordon couldn't stick the conversion and the game was tied up, 4-all.
The Gold Coast showed solid penetration to the line on several occasions but defensive efforts by the red and blue ensured they were denied any points before winning back possession.
On his return from suspension Lachlan Fitzgibbon almost gathered a grubber from skipper Mitchell Pearce in-goal but it went upstairs and was deemed a knock-on.
A short play down the right rewarded the Titans their second for the afternoon, with an off-load from Mitch Rein to find Moeaki Fotuaika for the try. Gordon added the extras to see the visitors take the lead, 10-4.
Seven minutes before the halftime siren a penalty in the ruck saw the Titans kick for goal. Just shy of 20 metres, Gordon made it an eight-point ball game.
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Holding on to momentum, Rein faked out of dummy half minutes later to sprint to the line, but the bunker ruled a no try after it was held up by a wall of red and blue.
With just two minutes on the clock and into the fifth tackle, Pearce pulled off a trademark high ball. It was right in the line of a speedy Meaney who gathered and crashed over the line in his first NRL try.
Sio nailed the kick from in front to see the Knights trail 10-12 into the break.
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In the second half, several pin-point passes out wide guided AJ Brimson to the line 43rd minutes in. Gordon slotted another conversion to see the Titans lead, 18-10.
The momentum continued off a kick and gather from Ash Taylor which saw Don stride over for the double minutes later. Gordon booted the kick to put the visitors in front 24-10.
On the last play out of dummy half, Danny Levi found Fitzgibbon, who pulled off his trademark roll to stretch the ball over the line in the 57th minute. Sio made no mistake on the kick to close the gap to 24-16.
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The Knights continued to fire and off the back of some hard running, Barnett slammed the ball down for the double a couple of minutes later. Sio's conversion got them to within two of the Titans after 61 minutes.
An off-side penalty 10 metres from the Panthers line gave Newcastle the chance to tie it up. Sio took the kick directly in front and made it 24-all with 11 minutes to play.
The wave of momentum continued in the Knights corner with an off-load out the back from Connor Watson which reached Shaun Kenny-Dowall who snuck over the line. Sio booted a looping kick but it went through the sticks to see the Knights take the lead, 30-24.
In the remaining eight minutes it was an intense battle, Levi crashed over in the dying seconds, it was deemed a no try, but the Knights held out for the emphatic 30-24 win.
Knights 30 (T: Barnett 2, Meaney, Fitzgibbon, Kenny-Dowall G: Sio 4/5, PG: Sio 1/1)
Titans 24 (T: Don 2, Fotuaika, Brimson G: Gordon 3/4, PG: Gordon 1/1)