The Bulldogs held off a gallant Knights side 20-18 in what was an action packed game from start to finish.
It was four tries to three at the end of 80 minutes.
For the second week in a row, Coach Des Hasler was able to maintain the same 17 men he selected earlier in the week. It was the Knights though that had a number of changes with Adam Clydesdale and Jeremy Smith being late withdrawals and Sam Mataora and Danny Levi coming into the side.
The Knights were playing for pride and with it being Kurt Gidley’s 250th NRL match and final home game in front of his fans, along with Akuila Uate playing his 150th match in the top grade there was that little bit of extra spice in it for them.
That spice was felt straight away with Kade Snowden being placed on report in just the second minute of play with a hit on Greg Eastwood and just two minutes later Frank Pritchard threw the arm out and caught Knight fullback Jake Mamo and was then put on report himself with the match review committee to have a good look at both offences.
It seemed as though both sides were here to throw the ball around and with that came errors and a lot of ball in open play. The 11th minute saw the opening points scored through Knights back rower Tariq Sims. It was a final tackle kick that was put across field by Gidley and with it coming down in an awkward area, both Sam Perrett and Brett Morris let it bounce. With a host of players looking to gain possession, it eventually came off the boot of Morris and Tariq picked up the ball and planted the ball down in the south-east corner to score. Gidley had the kicking duties and beautifully converted from the sideline with the Knights out to a 6-nil lead.
With the Knights on the attack it was looking like they were going to cross for their second try but when Mamo looked for Uate on the outside with a cut out ball, it was try scoring machine Curtis Rona who read the play smartly, taking the intercept and running 90m to score in the north-west corner. Trent Hodkinson couldn’t convert, with the scoreboard reading 6-4 after 20 minutes of play.
Six minutes later and off the back of a penalty against Beau Scott for a high tackle on Brett Morris the blue and whites were able to go over for their second try of the night. It was on just the third tackle where just a simple shift through Hodkinson to Tim Lafai, who stepped of his right, beat Tyrone Peachey and went over to score. With Hodkinson going down injured with what looked to be a wrist injury, he came from the field and Moses Mbye took over the kicking duties, converting to put his side in front 10-6.
In the 32nd minute hooker Damien Cook stamped his authority on the match. With the roll forward happening through the middle, the Helensburgh junior picked it up and darted straight through the ruck area, running 40m to score and leaving Knights speedster Mamo behind him. Mbye had no luck with the conversion from out wide missing and the score now 14-6.
Neither side could take advantage of some good attacking chances with the score staying at 14-6 as the half-time siren sounded.
13 minutes into the second half the home side earned three penalties in row for a range of offences but the sheer weight of possession turned into points for the Knights. Whils the Bulldogs held them out for 15 tackles, it was on the 16th where Tyrone Roberts punched one into the in-goal area and flyer Nathan Ross won the race to the ball to score. Roberts converted to close the gap to two points, 14-12.
A 57th minute try was called by the Knights but after referee Adam Devcich sent the potential four-pointer up to the video referee, it was called back for a knock-on by Mamo.
A penalty on their own 10m line got the visitors out of trouble and from there they were able to start the set from 40m out and go 60m down field to score. It was the last tackle and they Dogs decided to run it on the last and with the ball going through the hands of Mbye and on to Pritchard, the experienced back rower did the simple dummy and run to score. Lafai took over the kicking duties and converted to put the lead out beyond the converted try, 20-12.
It was the milestone man Gidley who inspired his troops shortly after to close the gap. Off the back of a Sam Kasiano error, the Knights went down field and with the defence reeling, the five-eighth took on the line and slid through Lloyd Perrett and Pritchard to score next to the right hand upright. Roberts converted with the scoreboard now reading 20-18 with nine minutes remaining.
The final minutes of play was nothing short of comedy, with a pitch invader, a fall from the referee and a number of errors but no further points were scored with the Bulldogs holding on for a 20-18 win.
BULLDOGS 20 (Rona, Lafai, Cook, Pritchard Tries; Mbye, Lafai Goals)
KNIGHTS 18 (T Sims, Ross, Gidley Tries; Gidley, Roberts 2 Goals)
At: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle