Knights v Wests Tigers: Five key points
Crowd intervention proved the turning point for the Newcastle Knights in their 18-16 win over the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon – the club's first win in 230 days.
Two-ball special proves turning point for Knights' first win of the year
You'll probably never see anything like it again.
Just minutes into the second half Trent Hodkinson sent a towering bomb out Tigers winger Jordan Rankin's way.
The only problem was that a second ball had found its way onto Hunter Stadium – confirmed by NRL official Bob Lanigan as being thrown from the crowd – which Knights prop Korbin Sims kicked from the ground towards Rankin's direction while chasing the Hodkinson kick.
It distracted Rankin from the task at hand – catching the actual game ball – and he spilled the bomb in his own in-goal. It forced a drop out and led to Newcastle's match-winning try through Nathan Ross.
Both coaches however refused to acknowledge the incident as having an impact on the final result.
"You have to catch the ball. There's one ball that needed to be caught and that's it. It was horrendous that in the NRL that can happen but we're not going to use that as an excuse,” Tigers mentor Jason Taylor said post-game.
"That stuff happens at training all the time – guys are kicking balls and there are other balls flying around the place. It's not an excuse to drop it."
Opposing coach Nathan Brown was just pleased to get his first win at the helm of the Knights.
"To win a close game like that is good. When you're sitting on the bottom of the table and nearly 22,000 people turn up you have to be very happy," Brown said.
"I think we have played far better this year and lost, and played better than that and drawn. Though we deserved the win and I thought we were the better team even though neither were great. "
First taste of victory for five Knights
In the context of their career development a first career win for Knights Jacob and Daniel Saifiti, Jaelen Feeney, Pat Mata'utia and NRL debutant Will Pearsall will be crucial.
"I just hope they continue to learn and see the positives," Brown said of his youngsters.
"The gap between 20s, reserve grade and first grade is so far, far away. What happens in those games and what they get away with, you don't get away with in first grade.
"Many, many years ago reserve grade was tough and a contest so if a bloke was going really well there, you were pretty confident he was going to stand up in first grade.
"But now you can toss some people out there in reserve grade and it doesn't mean they're going to be good in the NRL. So for these boys all their learnings and their experiences gained have to be in first grade."
Aaron Woods fails to finish the game
In what may be a potential blow for the Kangaroos ahead of their May Test against New Zealand, Tigers skipper Aaron Woods limped off the field with 20 minutes remaining with an ankle injury.
Coach Taylor offered a bit more insight post-game than the man himself who simply mustered "it's alright" to the media.
"Without putting words in Woodsy's mouth, his ankle is sore," Taylor said. "But it doesn't seem to be ridiculously bad."
The Tigers have said they will know the extent of the injury on Monday when Woods has scans.
Hodkinson's goal kicking proves the difference
If Newcastle find themselves in finals contention down the line then they'll be safe in knowing that Hodkinson is the most improved goal kicker in the NRL in 2016.
His three goals from three attempts against the Tigers proved the difference in the end, and the Knights co-captain is yet to miss a conversion for his new club with 16 goals from 16 attempts.
It's a far cry from his 66.2 goal-kicking percentage last year for the Bulldogs.
It's fair to say the Wests Tigers and referee Gavin Badger aren't on the best of terms.
Three of the Tigers' four losses in 2016 have been refereed by Badger.
On top of that, the Tigers have managed to win just two of their last 15 games officiated by the veteran whistle-blower.