Newcastle Knights moved off the bottom of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder with a come-from-behind 24-18 win over Wests Tigers. Here are five talking points from the tense clash at Campbelltown Stadium.
Knights focus on Tigers' tight turnaround
Wests Tigers came into their Round 23 NRL Telstra Premiership clash with Newcastle off a five-day turnaround after defeating the Raiders in Canberra on Monday night. The Knights had a six-day turnaround after their loss to the Roosters in Round 22, and it was the home side who looked a little flat at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday.
The Tigers made 1,737 run metres, five line breaks and 10 offloads in their win over the Raiders on Monday but managed just 1,329 run meters, two line breaks and eight offloads against the Knights. The loss of key player Aaron Woods also impacted the Tigers' go-forward.
"They came off a Monday night game and we knew if we stuck it to them in the middle we'd tire them out slowly," Knights forward Jeremy Smith said after the game.
"It's good to be back in the winner's circle."
Woods, Halatau injuries hurt Tigers
To compound their short turnaround, Wests Tigers then lost powerful prop Aaron Woods after just 14 minutes of the game, before fellow forward Dene Halatau succumbed to a head knock and also missed most of the match.
"It doesn't look like it's the season, he could possibly be okay for next week," Tigers coach Jason Taylor said of Woods' knee injury.
"He's had that injury a few times. It's a reoccurrence of an old injury."
After scoring three tries in the first 20 minutes, the Tigers rarely looked like scoring again as the Knights dominated field position by making easy metres up the middle of the field.
"It was tough. We started well but lost our way a bit with execution," Tigers captain Robbie Farah said.
"We didn't have much ball in the second half. We hung in there but ran out of legs in the end."
Buderus proud of first win as coach
Walking into the post-match press conference after his side's tense win, interim Knights coach Danny Buderus couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
"It was the most frustrating and enjoyable experience I've ever had," Buderus said.
"To have that feeling every week would be great fun. I know what the other end of the spectrum is.
"As a player you're in the game and can take control a bit, but as a coach you're just up there riding it. I'm just glad we got the win."
Down 16-6 after 20 minutes, things looked ominous for a Knights side that had lost nine of their previous 10 matches. And it could have been worse for the visitors had it not been for a tremendous try-saving tackle by Beau Scott on Ava Seumanufagai just before half-time. Had the Tigers forward scored, the Knights would have been down 22-12 at the break.
"That was a big momentum swing going into half-time, it was a huge play," Buderus said.
While the former Knights hooker won't be taking the head coach role full time, his players have been full of praise for their stand-in mentor.
"He optimises the club, he's an absolute champion of a bloke and the boys have been working hard for him," forward Jeremy Smith said of Buderus.
Roberts still showing fight at Knights
With the arrival of Bulldogs and NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson at Newcastle in 2016 and the likely return to full fitness of Jarrod Mullen, the future of incumbent No.7 Tyrone Roberts has been up in the air for some time.
Perhaps knowing that he is in the shop window, and with rumours of a move to Gold Coast Titans, Roberts has put his head down and turned in some solid performances for the Knights. He scored two tries and kicked four goals against the Tigers while providing a decent kicking and running game in general play.
"With Tyrone, we spoke about just being in the moment and just playing," Buderus said.
"When he plays with instinct he's pretty good. He's trying to get consistency and that's important because your halfback reflects your team."
Wooden spoon race is well and truly alive
With their seventh win of the season the Knights moved off the bottom of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder, although the Panthers and now bottom-placed Titans were yet to play in Round 23.
At full-time in Campbelltown, four teams were on 18 points with just points differential putting them in order at the foot of the table. Wests Tigers (-85), the Panthers (-87), Knights (-148) and Titans (-163) are the candidates for the 2015 spoon.
Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor said his team had not specifically spoken about the least-wanted prize in football, but rather were focussing on finishing the season positively.
"We've talked about the fact we want to move up the ladder – that's the plan," Taylor said.
"We've talked about finishing the season strongly and playing all the way to the end.
"We don't want to drop our bundle and cruise through to the end of the season. We want to fight and we want to get results."