Newcastle produced a strong opening before the Bulldogs showed some fight to come from behind and secure a 16-16 draw in an NRL trial at McDonald Jones Stadium on Monday night.
Tries to Jake Clifford and Jirah Momoisea set up a 12-0 lead for the Knights early before Bulldogs recruit Matt Dufty made his mark on the game with a long-range try against the run of play minutes after an assist for winger Jayden Okunbor.
Newcastle halfback Adam Clune also gave a strong first impression in his first appearance in red and blue, linking well with Clifford, before putting Dominic Young over the line late in the first half.
The Knights rested most of their stars for the second period but it wasn't the case for Canterbury with Trent Barrett leaving most of his starting side on the paddock after the break.
Dufty sprints away
The Bulldogs levelled with 18 minutes to go through former Wests Tigers forward Reece Hoffman, who collected a Brandon Wakeham kick to plant the ball down.
Canterbury enjoyed a huge chunk of possession late in the game but couldn't come up with the game-breaking play with their inexperienced men on the park.
Match: Knights v Bulldogs
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
- Newcastle enjoyed a 75% possession rate in the opening half with the Bulldogs completing at just 42%.
- New Bulldogs recruits Tevita Pangai jnr and Paul Vaughan were limited with touches in the first half with five carries between them but were given more minutes in the second period.
- Knights playmakers Jake Clifford and Adam Clune showed promising signs as a combination ahead of the 2022 season linking with Kalyn Ponga and Chris Randall well.
- Bulldogs playmakers Brandon Wakeham and Jake Averillo started the match before Kyle Flanagan finished the game in the halves.
- Bulldogs forward Corey Waddell was placed on report for a high tackle on Brayden Musgrove in the 55th minute.
- Bulldogs forward Jack Hetherington was a late withdrawal from the clash due to the birth of his daughter on Sunday.
- Newcastle lost English rookie Bailey Hodgson to an elbow injury in the second half.
Clune sets up Young
Play of the game
Knights prop David Klemmer isn't traditionally known as a ball-player but his tip-on pass for rookie Jirah Momoisea to set up the side's second could be a sign of things to come. Klemmer played more minutes than any other senior player in Newcastle's engine room and finished the match one of the best on the paddock.
Momoisea surges through
Little-known Bulldogs winger Declan Casey had a moment to remember when he pulled off a massive shot on Knights star Kalyn Ponga midway through the first half. Canterbury took advantage of the hit to score a try in the following set and stem the flow of momentum.
Casey shows Ponga no respect
What they said
"I thought we were pretty good [in the first half]. They scored a couple of tries off our errors in our own end and went the distance but all in all, I was pretty happy with it." - Knights captain Kalyn Ponga.
"It was a good hit-out for the boys. We couldn't have had a worst start to the game but it shows what we're trying to build at the Dogs, that bit of grit. To finish 16-10 with only 30 percent of the ball [in the first half], we're pretty happy with that." - Bulldogs recruit Matt Dufty.
Newcastle will be looking to fine-tune their first trial effort with a clash against Melbourne at Mars Stadium in Wendouree. Knights coach Adam O'Brien ran with a near full-strength side against the Bulldogs and is likely to give his key men another run in their final trial before round one.
A seven-day turnaround is scheduled for Trent Barrett's outfit, who will take on Cronulla at PointsBet Stadium on Monday in a final trial before their season opener. Star signing Josh Addo-Carr confirmed he will play in the match after being rested against the Knights.
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