NYC Broncos sneak past brave Knights
The Broncos' under-20s have survived a trademark Knights comeback to advance to Week Two of the Holden Cup finals with a 30-26 win at Allianz Stadium that brings Newcastle's brave season to an end.
Brisbane looked headed for a comfortable win when they opened up a 20-point buffer early in the second half only for the Knights to rally as they always do to get within two points before the Broncos settled things with a late try.
After an error-riddled start to the game that saw both sides cough up the ball far too frequently, the Broncos finally opened the scoring 23 minutes in when prop forward Jai Whitbread tucked the ball under the arm and barged over for his second try of the year.
It didn't take long for the Knights to hit back when Heath Gibbs took advantage of a midfield error and made something out of nothing by burning his opposite number to score a sensational solo try.
There was nothing spectacular about the next scoring play but it proved equally effective as Broncos bench forward Sam Elliott charged onto a short ball out of dummy-half to make it 12-4 after 33 minutes.
Brisbane's big men were having a field day and their dominance through the middle of the ruck continued two minutes out from half-time when NYC Team of the Year front-rower Patrick Carrigan popped a perfect offload to Elliott who couldn't believe his luck as he strolled over for his second try.
Newcastle had to be the first team to score in the second half and they went agonisingly close through winger Kainoa Gudgeon who flew through the air but couldn't control the ball as he went to ground.
It would prove to be a costly miss as Brisbane raced down the field and from the very next play extended their lead when Haydyn O'Hara latched onto a well-timed offload from his winger to cross in the right corner.
Gudgeon wouldn't be denied the second time around when he raced through to ground a Hayden Loughrey grubber to give the Knights some hope with 27 minutes remaining.
That try seemed to spark the Knights who further cut into the deficit when Gibbs burst through Brisbane's goal-line defence courtesy of some trickery from Luke Huth out of dummy-half.
The small pocket of Newcastle fans who made the trip south were in hysterics when Brayden Musgrove scooped up a loose pass and went over untouched to make it a two-point ball game, only for Broncos five-eighth Josh Fauid to kill off the comeback with some flashy footwork after the Knights made an error from the set after points.
There was some late drama when Knights centre Cory Denniss finished off some razzle-dazzle play in the left corner but it was too little too late as Brisbane survived to progress to the second week of the playoffs.
Broncos 30 (Sam Elliott 2, Jai Whitbread, Haydyn O'Hara, Josh Fauid tries; Kotoni Staggs 5 goals) def. Knights 26 (Heath Gibbs 2, Kainoa Gudgeon, Brayden Musgrove, Cory Denniss tries; Kurtis Dark 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 18-4.