On what was always going to be a special day for the Newcastle community regardless of the result as they celebrated injured player Alex McKinnon in the RiseForAlex Round, the Gold Coast Titans have come away with an unscripted 22-8 win over the Knights.
Newcastle rises as one for Alex
Don graduates from waiter to player
Sense of occasion not lost on Titans
Emotional Bennett lost for words
WATCH: Knights v Titans highlights
WATCH: Knights press conference
WATCH: Titans press conference
WATCH: Dave Taylor shows his skills sending Mark Minichiello over
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It was largely a very flat Newcastle performance in front of 26,401 emotional Knights supporters and the Titans made them pay with two first half tries.
A masterstroke decision by Titans coach John Cartwright to move Dave Taylor to the centres paid off enormously and while a Knights mini-comeback occurred in the final quarter of the game it wasn't enough to win the match.
The writing was on the wall after ten minutes when Titans five-eighth Brad Takairangi was denied the first try of the afternoon after it was ruled that he dropped the ball upon trying to ground it.
With the Gold Coast barraging the Knights defence for the majority of play thereafter, winger Anthony Don scored a long distance try supporting a blistering James Roberts line break to post the game's first points and gain a 6-0 lead for his team in the 19th minute.
The Titans wouldn't let up and continued to mount pressure. Two errors from Akuila Uate within a minute didn't help the Knights' cause and a bullocking Taylor made them pay after he shook off three defenders to cross for the Titans' second try of the afternoon.
The sideline became Jake Mamo's worst enemy right on halftime when he showed amazing reflexes to pick up a Daniel Mortimer grubber drilled towards the sideline. Tiptoeing his way downfield, Mamo found space and would've run the length of the paddock but the touch judge noticed he put a foot on the white stripe.
Down 12-0 at halftime, the Titans continued the Knights' pain when a Mark Minichiello dummied his way over the line in the 53rd minute. A long ball to Taylor saw the giant centre seemingly wrapped up by Uate but he used his strength to flick it out the back to Minichiello to deceive his way past Dane Gagai to help his team to a 16-0 advantage.
A groin injury to Knights captain Kurt Gidley then compounded the Knights' woes.
Newcastle proved there was life in them late in the piece when the old dogs Jeremy Smith and Willie Mason channelled their inner-halfbacks to set up a Joey Leilua try with 18 minutes remaining. It was Mason who wrapped around Smith, allowing the necessary space for Leilua to push through defenders to score his seventh try of the season.
An offside penalty from the Titans at the ensuing kick-off almost paid dividends again for the Knights but fullback Darius Boyd was ruled to have perhaps controversially knocked it on despite questionable contact from the defence.
However a 70th minute try kept the Knights in with a chance on the back of some great work from Tyrone Roberts.
Their second four-pointer of the afternoon came from them simply working over the Titans right-edge defence with aplomb in three consecutive tackles. Some great lead up work from Jarrod Mullen and Mamo allowed Roberts to score – though he missed the crucial conversion which would have narrowed the gap down to one converted try.
But with two scoring plays required and the clock against them the Knights weren't able to mount the comeback, and a brilliant late grubber from Mortimer helped Roberts stretch the final margin out to 14 on the back of a sideline conversion from Kevin Gordon as they kept their finals hopes alive.
Titans 22 (Don, Taylor, Minichiello, Roberts Tries; Gordon 3 Goals) defeated Knights 8 (Leilua, Mamo Tries) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 26,401.