Knights show steel for rare win over Broncos
The Newcastle Knights have held off a late fightback from the Brisbane Broncos to return to the winners list with a gutsy 15-10 win on Saturday night.
The Knights returned home for the first time since the opening round of the Telstra Premiership and produced an outstanding defensive effort from the opening whistle to frustrate Wayne Bennett's men.
After Newcastle controlled the opening sets Shaun Kenny-Dowall looked to have crossed for the opening points but play was called back for a forward pass.
It was not long before the Broncos seized momentum, with James Roberts scooting around a flat-footed Ken Sio to get his side into the Knights' half, and from there the visitors set up camp for the next few minutes.
Brisbane forced two goal-line dropouts, followed by back-to-back penalties, but all their momentum was undone when Matt Gillett could not take a pass just metres from the line.
Anthony Milford had another golden chance when he busted through a fragile Knights defence with some flash speed and a nice sidestep, but what should have been a regulation pass to support slipped through his hands as a try went begging.
Newcastle were just as wasteful in attack, with simple errors and interceptions denying them another chance to post the first points of the match in the 25th minute.
In a sign of how frantic the first half hour was, Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce sent back-to-back kicks over the touchline, opting for a breather rather than an attacking end to the set of six.
It was enough to control field possession though, and pressure started to mount on the Broncos with the defence eventually cracking when Kalyn Ponga put Lachlan Fitzgibbon through a gap for the first try with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Both sides had their chances to add to the scoresheet before half-time, but the execution let them down.
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In the final seconds, Pearce slotted a field goal to give his side a seven-point advantage at the break.
The Knights came close to added to their lead early in the second with Brisbane fullback Darius Boyd let a high bomb bounce, allowing Nathan Ross to contest the ball and flick it back to a teammate. The only issue was that teammate was Chris Heighington, who did not quite have the speed to get to the line and was tackled on the last just metres out.
It was the first time in four seasons the Knights had not conceded any points after 50 minutes, and on the back of that pressure the Broncos defensive line cracked again – an aggressive run from Daniel Saifiti extending the Knights' lead to 13 points.
Match: Knights vs Broncos
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
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But momentum swung with a moment of embarrassment for Kenny-Dowall, who was in two minds about whether to let a deep kick-off go over the dead-ball line, and it instead let it him on the chest and dribble dead, handing possession straight back to the Broncos.
The visitors took advantage with Corey Oates finishing off a backline play to cross in the corner to narrow the margin to nine.
A high tackle on Ponga by Josh Maguire could come under scrutiny mid-week and allowed the fullback to add another two points with a penalty goal for an 11-point lead with 15 minutes to go.
But the match was far from over, Milford scooting over with less than seven minutes on the clock, to leave the door open for an exciting final five minutes with only five points the margin.
The Brisbane five-eighth continued to prove elusive in the remaining minutes with a number of exciting runs, but the Knights' defence was up to the task.
Newcastle held on for their third win of the season to return to the top eight in front of more than 21,000 fans.