The Newcastle Knights have recorded their first win of the season in front of a 21,000-strong Hunter Stadium crowd, beating the Wests Tigers in a dramatic 18-16 victory.
It ends six weeks of torture for the Knights who before playing the Tigers had managed just the lone competition point thanks to their Round 3 draw against the Raiders.
Newcastle’s victory was their 200th at Hunter Stadium and their first since Round 24 last year – 230 days ago – as no less than six players tasted their first NRL win.
Up 12-10 at half-time, one of the weirdest occurrences you’re ever likely to witness on a football field saw the Knights awarded a dropout despite there being two balls on the field, with NRL match official Bob Lanigan confirming post-match the second ball was thrown from the crowd.
The mishap saw Tigers winger Jordan Rankin’s concentration thrown off while retrieving a huge Trent Hodkinson bomb when Korbin Sims kicked the second ball at the winger.
Referee Gavin Badger’s decision to award the dropout came up trumps for Newcastle when Nathan Ross scored in the 48th minute when a Jarrod Mullen grubber left the Tigers short out wide.
Rankin had his revenge when he scored his second try of the afternoon in the 55th minute, finishing off a tidy Tigers backline play to cut the deficit back to two.
The Tigers were without captain Aaron Woods for the final quarter of the game however when he limped down the tunnel with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
The Knights looked home in the 76th minute when Akuila Uate looked to have scored his second try of the game but the bunker would have its first say of the game when it ruled that Sims had dropped the ball in the lead-up.
It wouldn’t matter as the Knights secured the two-point win and regain the Alan McMahon Shield.
Falling to their fourth-straight loss the Tigers started off best in the first half when James Tedesco scored their first after 10 minutes thanks to Mitchell Moses’s brilliant lead-up, who sent the fullback over for his eighth try of the season.
End-to-end football dominated the most part of the first half and it was no better witnessed then in the lead-up to Uate’s 19th-minute try.
Luke Brooks’ error after skipper Robbie Farah and Tedesco combined for a long-winding Tigers break allowed Newcastle’s Jeremy Smith to come up with a huge run of his own. Jaelen Feeney added to the effort on the next tackle before Uate was left to his own devices to score on the short side thereafter.
Brooks made up for his earlier mistake by sending winger Rankin over in the corner in the 27th minute. The Tigers halfback exposed the vulnerability of makeshift centre Feeney to help his side hit the lead once again.
However it was opposite playmaker Trent Hodkinson who had the final say in the first half when he sliced past Sauaso Sue and passed off to the try-scoring Korbin Sims in the 36th minute. The Newcastle co-captain’s conversion ensured a slender two-point half-time lead – one they would maintain for the remainder of proceedings.
Newcastle Knights 18 (Akuila Uate, Korbin Sims, Nathan Ross tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 16 (Jordan Rankin 2, James Tedesco tries; Jordan Rankin 2 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 21, 653. Half-time: Knights 12-10. On Report: Curtis Sironen (Tigers). Injuries: Sauaso Sue (Tigers) – concussion; Aaron Woods (Tigers) – ankle; Jeremy Smith (Knights) - concussion.