Newcastle made it back-to-back wins for the first time in two years with a 26-10 victory over the Vodafone Warriors in today's 22nd-round NRL encounter at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Benefiting from two early tries the Knights held a 16-4 lead at the break and held on throughout the second half before standoff Brock Lamb's 72nd-minute try stopped any thoughts of a Vodafone Warriors comeback.
The outcome added to the Vodafone Warriors' pain as they fell to a fifth straight loss since beating Canterbury-Bankstown in Auckland on June 23.
The opening stanza of today's match was a huge disappointment for the them after they had been handed a real opening through the Knights dropping the ball from the kick-off.
They couldn't profit from it and instead presented the home side with two tries in the opening 11 minutes, both to loose forward Mitch Barnett.
Four minutes in lively fullback Nathan Ross threatened the line but was just stopped. He played it quickly and the Knights swept to the left, opening up the Vodafone Warriors' right edge easily for Barnett to stroll through for his first.
In the 11th minute he powered up, punching through defenders to score a soft try next to the right-hand upright and Trent Hodkinson's conversion had his side out to a 12-0 lead.
The Vodafone Warriors had been forced to defend throughout the initial phase but gradually they ground their way back into it winning a share of possession and enjoying some field position.
In the 25th minute, they directed their attack to the right with Kieran Foran linking with Mason Lino, the halfback tipping on to centre Blake Ayshford who squeezed a pass out to David Fusitu'a on the right wing. He took his opportunity expertly, getting low to score in the corner for his 10th try in his last four games against Newcastle. Issac Luke couldn't convert but the Vodafone Warriors were in the contest at least.
The Knights kept a strong foothold in the battle through a favourable penalty count - 7-4 their way in the first half - and twice opted for two points to go to a 16-4 halftime lead.
If there had been signs of lethargy in the first half, the Vodafone Warriors opened up the second spell energetically and effectively, Lino icing the opening set by forcing a goal-line dropout.
The halfback repeated the act from the repeat set with another nice kick but the Vodafone Warriors were evidently offside enabling the Knights to sweep onto attack instead of being forced to defend again. It was turning into that sort of a day with a number of head-scratching calls from the officials which had the Knights 8-4 ahead on the penalty count by this stage.
The Vodafone Warriors were mustering more sting in their approach, especially with their ball carries.
Joy appeared to come with a lovely long ball from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck which Fusitu'a snaffled amazingly to put down - but enter the officials again. The Tuivasa-Sheck pass was called forward.
Then a penalty put the Vodafone Warriors on attack only for the ball to be turned over just at a time when they were beginning to look more in tune.
These are the moments which have hurt the Vodafone Warriors - so it would be again as the Knights arranged a try for loose forward Lachlan Fitzgibbon and went out to a 20-10 lead.
At last there was a change in fortune for the Vodafone Warriors in the 65th minute - but not without an anxious wait as the bunker played its part.
The ball was tapped back from a kick, went between Tuivasa-Sheck's legs and he scrambled to bat the ball on to Ayshford. The centre set it up nicely, dropping off to makeshift wing Nathaniel Roache (there for an injured Fusitu'a) to give the utility his first NRL try. At least the referee thought so but the bunker pored over the vision before awarding it. Luke's conversion from wide out was a peach to cut the margin to 10 points.
There was hope at least of mounting a comeback from this position as they tried to ask questions and created some pressure heading towards the final 10 minutes with two tries needed.
In the end it was only hope, Lamb delivering the heroic final touch for the battling Knights and ensuring the Vodafone Warriors will have an unhappy long trip home to prepare for next Sunday's second to last home game of the season against Canberra.
McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Newcastle Knights 26 (Mitch Barnett 2, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Brock Lamb tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 conversions, 2 penalties).
Vodafone Warriors 10 (David Fusitu'a, Nathaniel Roache tries; Issac Luke conversion).
Halftime: 16-4 Knights.
Referees: Chris Sutton and Chris James.
Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Mason Lino; Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Sam Lisone; Simon Mannering, Bunty Afoa; Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: Ben Matulino, Isaiah Papali'i, James Bell, Nathaniel Roache.