The nib Newcastle Knights were defeated 20-14 by the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.
With all four State of Origin representatives taking the field, it was the victorious NSW No.7 who made an immediate impact.
Mitchell Pearce floated a brilliant weighted three-man cut-out pass to Shaun Kenny-Dowall, hitting the winger on the chest to open the scoring.
Mason Lino nailed the conversion for a 6-0 lead after as many minutes.
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The Knights looked to be over 10 minutes later when a Pearce grubber found Sione Mata’utia but the backrower was held up by Jack Cogger.
The Knights returned the favour shortly after when Tim Glasby produced a stellar try saver on Marcelo Montoya.
While both teams had opportunities in the remainder of the half, the score remained the same heading into the break.
A tough run from Josh king in the 46th minute saw the impact man collected high and, on this occasion, the Knights couldn’t resist the gift two-points.
Leading 8-0, the home side slipped up.
When a grubber kick from Lino bounced off a set of legs and into the hands of Montoya, the Bulldogs made 90 metres.
Will Hopoate was over the following play.
Nick Meaney added the extras to reduce the margin 8-20 with 20 minutes remaining in the game.
When James Gavet was sin-binned for a late hit on Chris Smith, the Knights were down to 12-men.
The Bulldogs opted to take the kick for goal and levelled the scores 8-all with 17 minutes left on the clock.
The visitors kept the pressure on with Corey Harawira-Naera sliding over five minutes later and Meaney nailed the goal.
With the Bulldogs up 14-8, Mann kicked the ball out on the full to restart play.
Reimis Smith increased the Bulldogs lead to 12, scoring with 9 minutes left on the clock.
Not going down without a fight, the Knights struck back, with Mata'utia jumping on a loose ball and linking up with Kenny-Dowall between the posts.
The Knights reduced the margin to six, however the Bulldogs out-enthused the home side and got away with the two points.