Knights defeat injury-hit Titans
The Newcastle Knights have ended a 19-game drought, overcoming an injury-riddled Gold Coast Titans side 34-26 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
In a seesawing affair that produced everything, the Knights received a gift with six minutes left on the clock when Titans playmaker Tyrone Roberts kicked the ball out on the full to hand possession over to his former side.
The embattled club, who were staring down the barrel of 20 consecutive defeats, took advantage with Knights skipper Trent Hodkinson delivering a clutch pass on the inside for Peter Mata'utia to barge his way over for the match-winner.
After blowing a winning chance against the Warriors last week the Knights were not going to let the game go this time, as Nathan Ross put the game to bed with a try in the final minute.
The visitors were forced to play out the second half with only one man on the bench, after Jarryd Hayne, Anthony Don and Karl Lawton all left the field in the opening half with serious injury concerns.
Titans forward Joe Greenwood also left the field after just two minutes after head clash with Nathan Ross, but returned to the field midway through the first half.
Hayne collided with former New South Wales teammate Trent Hodkinson chasing a kick in the 30th minute and was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a left ankle complaint.
Don immediately clutched at his shoulder after reaching out to grab opposite winger Nathan Ross, while Lawton left the field with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Strong runs from Mitch Barnett and Daniel Saifiti set the tone early for the Novocastrians, who ran in the opening two tries to take a 12-nil lead after 25 minutes.
New Knights fullback Brendan Elliot had a nervous first touch after being tested early, but bounced back to open the scoring when he ran a nice line off Brock for the home side in the 18th minute.
Hodkinson saved an almost certain try when he pulled off a one-on-one tackle on Titans five-eighth Kane Elgey close to the line, and the Knights managed to keep the ball alive for interchange prop Jack Stockwell to score his second try in as many weeks when he was on the end of some hot-potato play to barge over for the Knights' second.
The Titans looked flat but managed to turn a nothing kick into something to jag a try back after some freakish play from winger Anthony Don, who kept the ball alive and batted it back from over the dead-ball line for Konrad Hurrell to get the visitors on the board.
From there, the momentum swung and the Gold Coast finished the half in control despite their growing injury toll.
Newcastle were left to rue a try gone begging after the kick-chasers from a Brock Lamb kick were ruled offside, and the Titans took advantage when Lawton picked up a loose ball to score next to the posts the following set.
Former Knight Tyrone Roberts found himself at fullback with the loss of Hayne, and managed to share a special moment with cousin Tyronne Roberts-Davis when he threw a cutout pass for the NRL debutant to plant the ball down in the corner on the stroke of half-time.
Newcastle took advantage of the visitors' injury woes immediately after the break, with Elliot finding speedy winger Nathan Ross who went over in the corner to level the scores.
In a game that had just about everything, the Titans produced the best try of the season so far after keeping the ball alive and going through over 20 sets of hands for Greenwood to score his first four-pointer in the NRL.
Titans interchange forward Nathaniel Peteru conceded a penalty on a Lamb kick after making late contact, and the crafty five-eighth put another Knights rookie, Sam Stone, over for the first try of his Telstra Premiership career midway through the second half.
Hodkinson would convert and the Knights were up by two with 23 minutes to play.
However, the Titans were not done with yet and levelled the game shortly after when Ash Taylor kicked a 40/20, before new Knights recruit Jamie Buhrer was penalised close to the line and the visitors took the two points on offer with a quarter of the game to play.
The Titans' never-say-die attitude was on display and the visitors looked to have clinched a remarkable win as Taylor perfectly placed a kick for Hurrell to go over for his second out wide.
But the courageous effort from the Titans was trumped by the effort of the Knights, who gave their fans the perfect start to their 2017 season at home.
Knights 34 (Nathan Ross 2, Brendan Elliot, Jack Stockwell, Sam Stone, Peter Mata'utia tries; Trent Hodkinson 5 goals) def. Titans 26 (Konrad Hurrell 2, Karl Lawton, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Joe Greenwood tries; Ash Taylor 3 goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Half-time: Titans 16-12. Crowd: 12,869.