By Robert Crosby
A hat-trick from Phoenix Crossland has seen the Newcastle Knights record their fourth win of the season.
They downed the North Sydney Bears, 32-14, on Friday evening at McDonald Jones Stadium to move within striking distance of the top eight.
Named in the Knights NRL development squad, Crossland showed plenty of class to help the home side overcome an early 10-0 deficit against a Bears side missing halfback Brock Lamb due to a late NRL call-up.
Chasing three wins in a row following strong showings against Western Suburbs and Wentworthville, North Sydney started promisingly with Fletcher Baker running onto a well-timed offload to open the scoring after three minutes.
With both sides coming close to scoring during the opening quarter, replacement halfback Sam Verrills dived over from close range in the 18th minute to take the visitors out to a 10-0 lead following Drew Hutchison’s conversion from next to the posts.
Hitting back in the 22nd minute through Crossland, following strong support play from Chris Randall and Tex Hoy in the lead up, the Knights five-eighth bagged his second of the night five minutes later to tie the scores at 10-10.
Crossing for an important try four minutes before the break, Randall dived over from close range to give Newcastle a 16-10 lead much to the delight of coach Rory Kostjasyn.
Looking to continue a strong run of form, the Knights started the second half in fine touch with Crossland bagging his third in the 48th minute after a superb offload from captain Jamie Buhrer in the lead up.
Responding through centre James Tuitahi in the 55th minute to reduce the margin to 22-14, the Bears were unable to repel the Knights.
Buoyed by a strong crowd awaiting the much-anticipated first grade encounter, winger Mitchell Andrews sealed the deal in the 65th minute with his first try of the season.
Adding a penalty goal in the 71st minute, a final barnstorming effort from Tautau Moga with five minutes to play saw the Knights run out 32-14 winners.
Next week, the Knights travel to ANZ Stadium to face the Bulldogs on Saturday evening.
Knights 32 (Phoenix Crossland 3, Chris Randall, Mitchell Andrews, Tautau Moga tries. Mason Lino 4/7 goals).