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The road to September

After 25 incredible and thrilling rounds of rugby league, the nib Newcastle Knights have arrived at their destination.

Finals football awaits the Knights this weekend with the side preparing for a mammoth elimination final against the Parramatta Eels this Sunday.

After a rollercoaster ride of a season with plenty of highs and lows, the red and blue finished their campaign in seventh spot with a 12-12 record.

Here is a look back at the road to September.


The long slog of pre-season was over and the 2021 campaign opened up with a strong home win over the Bulldogs in front of 19,555 supporters at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Daniel Saifiti highlighted the 32-16 opening triumph with two tries in his milestone 100th game. 

The Knights backed up the Round 1 win with a come-from-behind 20-16 victory in Round 2 against the Warriors on the Central Coast.

A scintillating Bradman Best caught the eye with two pivotal try-assists.

Newcastle tasted their first loss of the season in Round 3 against the Wests Tigers.

In Mitchell Pearce's 300th game, the Knights fought back from a deficit in the second half but couldn't tame the Tigers, going down 24-20.

The Knights were back at home against St George Illawarra in Round 4, however they couldn't slay the Dragons enduring a 22-13 defeat.

To make matters worse, Mitchell Pearce ruptured his pectoral muscle and would miss the next 10 rounds.


The Knights were on the road in Round 5 travelling to the Gold Coast, and faced a tricky Titans team.

The red and blue were defeated 42-16 to slip to a 2-3 record.

The highly-awaited return of Kalyn Ponga sparked the Knights attack in Round 6 as the side pulled off a gritty win over the Sharks.

Ponga was back to his best, having a hand in all four tries including a late four-pointer with three minutes to play, which sealed a memorable victory on home turf.

The Knights faced tough assignments in Round 7 and 8 against competition heavyweights Penrith and the Roosters.

The team battled hard against the Panthers but went down 24-6 away from home before the Roosters defeated Newcastle 38-4 at home.

After the first eight rounds, the Knights sat in 11th position.


Starring down the barrel of two back-to-back losses, the Knights headed to the bush to tackle the Raiders.

After trailing by 16 points at the start of the second half, Newcastle turned the tables to rally home and secure an incredible 24-16 victory in Wagga Wagga.

In Round 10's Magic Round, the Knights were defeated by the Wests Tigers 36-18.

Enduring a tough spell of injuries heading into Round 11, the side went down to North Queensland in Townsville 36-20.

Looking for a much-needed victory, the stage was set for a strong response against arch-rivals Manly on a Sunday afternoon at McDonald Jones Stadium.

A late Daniel Saifiti try rubber-stamped a huge statement and handed Newcastle an Indigenous Round 18-10 victory.

ROUNDS 13-16

Round 13 marked Jake Clifford's debut for the Club after a mid-season move from the Cowboys.

However it proved to a hard afternoon against a strong Parramatta Eels outfit with the side going down 40-4.

Still in the midst of a horror injury run, the side faced another top four opponent in South Sydney in Round 14.

Dom Young's first NRL try was a highlight in a tough affair against the Bunnies, with the team going down 24-10 in Sydney.

In Round 15, a few first-grade regulars returned to the team including halfback Mitchell Pearce.

After a hard-fought battle, the Knights scored a late try through Brodie Jones to score a 10-6 win over the Warriors.

In Round 16, the return of Kalyn Ponga at fullback saw the Knights attack switch into top gear.

A first half blitz against North Queensland saw Newcastle achieve a 38-0 victory over the Cowboys, which proved to be the team's biggest win of the season in their final outing at McDonald Jones stadium for the season.

After the side's bye in Round 17, the team sat in ninth place.

ROUNDS 18-21

Ahead of Round 18, the Knights were among 12 teams to relocate to Queensland in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting NSW.

The Knights faced a red-hot Melbourne Storm side on the Gold Coast and endured a 48-4 loss.

The Roosters were next for Newcastle in Round 19, and after leading early, the Tricolours proved too strong defeating Newcastle 28-8.

A couple of key figures returned to the line-up for the side's next and crucial clash with the Canberra Raiders.

An Enari Tuala hat-trick highlighted a tremendous 34-24 victory against a top eight rival in Round 20.

Newcastle backed up the impressive performance with a 28-20 win over Brisbane, to achieve a Club first and win two games in the space of four days.

ROUNDS 22-25

Heading into the last four rounds, the Knights were only a win away from the top eight spots off the back of two straight wins.

The Knights showed immense toughness to hold onto a 16-14 win over the Sharks in Round 22 with Jake Clifford booting a late penalty goal to earn the two points.

Riding high after three straight wins, the Knights continued their upward trajectory with a 22-16 win over the Bulldogs in Round 23.

The next encounter for the Knights was the Gold Coast Titans on the Sunshine Coast, with a win meaning the Knights would qualify for the finals.

With the scores locked at 14-all with a minute remaining, the experienced Mitchell Pearce nailed a field goal to to secure the two points and an all-important finals spot.

In the final round with a spot in the finals locked in, the Knights opted to play a few of their younger players against Brisbane which produced a valiant effort, although wasn't enough and the team went down 35-22.