The Knights have sprung a 20-6 upset defeat of the Sydney Roosters at the SCG with an impressive performance by Adam O'Brien's men.
Newcastle dominated the match, making six line-breaks to nil and holding the Roosters tryless until four minutes before fulltime.
Five-eighth Jake Clifford was the star for the Knights but it was a team performance, with the back five of Kalyn Ponga (146m), Dominic Young (124m), Dane Gagai (200m), Bradman Best (146m) and Enari Tuala (109m) all running more than 100 metres with the ball.
Lock Kurt Mann led the way defensively as the Knights forwards forced errors and their backs capitalised, with Gagai, Clifford, Tuala and Young scoring tries.
The visitors led 20-2 until the finals stages when Roosters centre Paul Momirovski crossed for their only try of the match in his first game back at the club where he started before stints with Wests Tigers, Melbourne and Penrith.
Match: Roosters v Knights
Round 1 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
- The Roosters only scoring opportunity of the first half came in the 10th minute when Daniel Tupou burst through the mid-field and linked with Luke Keary, who sent James Tedesco racing for the tryline but the try was denied after the bunker ruled that David Klemmer had been obstructed from attempting a tackle.
- Dane Gagai celebrated his return to the Knights with a try in the 14th minute after Tedesco misread a swirling Jake Clifford bomb that bounced awkwardly for the Roosters captain. Clifford chased his own kick and forced a fumble by Tedesco as he tried to cover the kick and Gagai swooped on the loose ball.
Gagai scores on his return to the Knights
- Victor Radley was forced from the field for a HIA midway through the first half after getting his head in the wrong position attempting a front-on tackle on Clifford and he did not return.
- Kurt Mann forced another Roosters error with a heavy shot on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and the Knights capitalised in spectacular fashion, with winger Enari Tuala scoring in the 32nd minute to give his side a 10-0 lead.
- Sam Walker scored the Roosters' only first half points with a penalty goal after the halftime siren sounded.
- Clifford got a try of his own in the 56th minute after a short pass from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to fellow prop Siosiua Taukeiaho hit the ground and the Knights five-eighth raced 50 metres to score.
Jake Clifford streaks away
- Knights utility Phoenix Crossland was sin-binned after interfering with Sam Walker as he chased a kick into the Newcastle in-goal but the visitors hung on while down a man.
- Jamaica international Dominic Young saved a try when he forced wing opposite Daniel Tupou into touch and then scored at the other end of the field in the 74th minute to seal Newcastle's win.
- Roosters centre Paul Momiroski scored a consolation try in the 76th minute.
Momirovski gets a consolation try
Play of the game
Kurt Mann appeared determined to ensure his 150th NRL match was one to remember when he put a big shot on Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves that forced a turnover and was then combined with Adam Clune and Kalyn Ponga to engineer a try for winger Enari Tuala. The try also featured a big don't argue from centre Bradman Best on Roosters centre Paul Momiroski and a flick pass to Tuala that will feature in highlight reels for the rest of the season.
Mann rocks JWH
What they said
"We were physically beaten. They carried stronger than us, we got put on our back, we looked pretty flat there at times. Guys were a bit underdone for playing NRL. We just had too many that couldn't get to a standard we wanted to. That was where we were at with our prep going in; we knew that but you can't compound that - you have to have high possession and low error counts to make up for that and we compounded that": Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
"You don't win the premiership in round one but it was important for us to implement some of the stuff we'd worked on. To get off to a good start agains quality opposition is always really pleasing. The 10 minutes we were down to 12 and they didn't break us ... we showed a ton of resilience defensively": Knights coach Adam O'Brien.
Teddy with a brilliant try-saver
The Roosters take on Manly at the SCG on Friday night and star lock Victor Radley will need to pass HIA protocols to play after suffering a head knock attempting to tackle Jake Clifford midway through the first half.
Radley was also placed on report for a crusher tackle, while prop Lindsay Collins was reported for a cannonball tackle.
Radley is taking no prisoners
Hooker Sam Verrills had been due to return from suspension against the Sea Eagles but suffered a broken thumb at training last week.
The Knights host Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium next Sunday and coach Adam O'Brien will be sweating on the fitness of forward Lachlan Fitzgibbon after he suffered a first half ankle injury.
Fitzgibbon played on and was one of Newcastle's best but he was clearly struggling after the teams returned to the field for the second half.