Despite a late comeback, the nib Newcastle Knights couldn't catch the Wests Tigers, defeated 25-16 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday evening.
A stack of un-disciplined penalties and a sin bin didn't help the Knights in the first half and despite two consecutive tries within minutes in the second stanza, Newcastle couldn't keep up the momentum to go down by nine points.
A mistake off the opening kick by Ken Sio wasn't a good start for the Knights before a penalty just 10 metres out saw the visitors take the kick from straight in front. Esan Marsters put the Tigers up by two points after just three minutes.
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The Knights saw a glimmer at the 10-minute mark with some quick play on the right edge, but the pass to Sione Mata'utia was overcooked and the Tigers gained back possession.
It was an unlikely try from the Tigers five minutes later as Russell Packer rolled around Lachlan Fitzgibbon to muscle his way to the line for the first points of the evening. Marsters booted the conversion to put the visitors further in the lead, 8-0.
Some Mitchell Pearce kicking brilliance swung the ball to the right corner, as it was knocked back into Mata'utia's hands before the centre stepped his way to the line for the Knights first after 19 minutes.
Sio couldn't convert as it bounced off the posts to see the Knights trail 8-4.
Ill-discipline saw another penalty from close range awarded to the Tigers and Marsters nailed the kick to stretch the visitors lead out to 10-4.
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Sio had another brain fade on the kick off as he booted the ball dead to get the Tigers back in their own 40 but redeemed himself minutes later to avoid another goal line drop out.
But in a dramatic twist, a stray pass from Pearce landed in Tigers hands before Sio was sent to the sin bin for ten for his work in the ruck. Marsters made the most of the situation with another two from the penalty kick.
A knock on gave the Knights hope 10 metres from the line, but Newcastle didn't take their opportunity as it ricocheted off Daniel Saifiti to roll over the dead ball line with five minutes to play in the first half.
Penalties continued to come thick and fast as the referees called Jack Cogger offside following the high ball. The Tigers took the tap and seconds later Luke Brooks strolled his way to the line for their second four pointer.
Marsters took the kick from 15 meters out but couldn't convert and it was the Tigers to take the 16-4 lead into the break.
In the second half, the Tigers' Sausao Sue was put on report for a knee to Kalyn Ponga before Pearce was forced to leave the field limping, as co-captain Jamie Buhrer took his place in the halves.
The Tigers extended their lead with a late off-load by Brooks to veteran Robbie Farah who finished with the try. Marsters nailed the conversion as the visitors led 22-4 after 50 minutes.
Minutes later it could have been another four pointer from the Tigers but a foot on the line denied Kevin Naiqama in the corner.
In a glimmer of hope for the Knights, Moses Mbye knocked on just 10 metres from their own line. A penalty allowed Newcastle to regather and edge closer, but the defensive pressure was just too solid.
But all was not lost as Ponga turned the tables with his trademark side step, reaching the line as he stretched the arm over. Sio didn't miss this time to see the Knights trail 22-10.
The Knights on the comeback with an impressive put down by Aidan Guerra as he rolled around defenders to slam the ball over in the 65th minute. A successful conversion from Sio put Newcastle within a converted try, 22-16.
In a smart move, the Tigers got close to the sticks and Brooks booted a field goal to put them ahead seven points with five minutes on the clock, before Marsters stepped up to kick another penalty to see the visitors extend their lead to 25-16 and play out the win.
Knights 16 (T: Mata'utia Ponga, Guerra G: Sio 2/3) defeated by
Tigers 25 (T: Packer, Brooks, Farah G: Marsters 2/3 PG: Marsters 4/4, FG: Brooks 1/1)