BITTERSWEET SUCCESS: Last NRL trial at Scully Park no.1?
THE Newcastle Knights made up for their last-minute defeat to Cronulla last year with a comprehensive win over the Canberra Raiders in their NRL trial at Scully Park on Saturday night.
It wasn’t the homecoming Tamworth’s Raider connection Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Matt Allwood were hoping for, with the Knights charging to a 34-14 win.
Both, though, got good report cards from Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
Allwood was making his first grade debut and is “every chance” of playing in round 1.
“He was very strong,” Stuart said.
He was particularly impressed with his defence after marking Joey (BJ) Leilua for the 40 minutes he was on the field.
“Matt handled the situation very well,” Stuart said.
Learoyd-Lahrs made some typical strong runs, but probably would have been “a bit unhappy with a couple of errors”, Stuart said.
The first half was tight, with the Knights taking a 12-10 lead into the break on the back of tries to wingers James McManus and Akuila Uate.
McManus’s came after a good break from Dane Gagai. He’d been switched to fullback, with Darius Boyd moving into five-eighth.
A few plays later they attacked to the left, half-back Tyrone Roberts sending a good pass out to Leilua, who attracted two defenders and tipped-on to McManus.
Roberts’ boot provided the avenue to their second try. He put a cross-field kick across to the right, which Raiders centre Jarrod Croker jumped up for but was unable to reel it in.
Uate scooped up the spoils and had an easy run to the line.
Croker redeemed himself a few minutes later, scoring in the shadow of half-time. It was messy though, with the ball going to ground and bouncing up fortuitously for Croker.
Edrick Lee had earlier got the Raiders on the board after the Knights failed to deal with a last- tackle bomb from Jack Wighton.
It bounced between the two teams and was snapped up by Joel Edwards who then sent it left to Lee and he scooted in.
Both coaches made significant changes at the break. Stuart put out a totally different line-up while Knights coach Wayne Bennett notably brought Michael Dobson on for Roberts.
Like they were in the first half, the Knights were first on the board in the second, Leilua running straight through the Raiders defence to extend the lead.
They ran in another two unanswered tries to pull out to a 28-10 lead midway through the half.
Knights captain Kurt Gidley was introduced not long after – to loud cheers from the crowd – and had an immediate impact, stepping his way around the defence from about 20m to score the Knights’ sixth try.
He was having his first run since injuring his ankle late last season.
Bennett said it was wonderful he was able to get some time.
“I was really pleased for him,” he said.
“We didn’t want to give him too much time tonight, just get a little bit of confidence for him.”
He said he should be right to start the season.