Newcastle's injury crisis has deepened, losing star fullback Kalyn Ponga and hooker Slade Griffin to potentially serious injuries during the first half of the 36-16 loss to the Bulldogs.
Both players did not return, with the Maroons rookie to face further scans on a hamstring tear midweek, while Slade Griffin could have suffered his fourth ACL injury and was taken to hospital.
The Bulldogs may have been a bit lighter on personnel after the departure of Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye, but their pressure early on was still high, as the Knights struggled to get out of their own half.
With Ponga off the field after just 15 minutes, the Bulldogs took full advantage. Reimis Smith flew down the touchline before finding Kerrod Holland on his outside to run away and score the opening try.
The Knights were quick to hit back and level the scores, after a Jack Cogger kick rebounded back for Newcastle, and Connor Watson was able to break through a tackle to crawl his way over, which was confirmed as a try by the Bunker.
But the home side allowed their opponents to steal back the momentum, through a dropped ball and then a penalty. Holland steamed through a gaping hole to get his second and put the Bulldogs back in front 12-6.
Match: Knights v Bulldogs
Round 16 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
The Knights responded just before the break, but it came at a cost. Griffin hyper-extended his left knee while offloading the ball to Herman Ese'ese who stretched out to plant the ball under the posts to make it 12-12 at the break.
The Bulldogs were lucky not to concede another when Brett Morris failed to take a bomb in the in-goal, but in the set following the drop-out, Connor Watson slipped through the defensive line to give the Novocastrians a four point lead at the break.
Poor discipline from the Knights early in the second half gave away a penalty, and the Bulldogs capitalised on the field position, spreading it to the right hand wing for Smith to dive over in the corner. A Rhyse Martin sideline conversion gave his side the lead again, just five minutes after the break.
The Bulldogs went back to back, just minutes later, when the Knights failed to clean up a Smith grubber kick, allowing Jeremy Marshall-King to score and extend the visitor's lead.
Newcastle were not without their chances during the second half, a string of errors and penalties gave them important field position, but without two of their key playmakers, they could not convert their opportunities into points.
In the 71st minute, Morris came so close to sealing the game for the Bulldogs at the other end, but the video officials found a knock-on from Marcelo Montoya. But they did not have to wait long to make amends, with Josh King dropping the ball on the next set, allowing utility Fa'amanu Brown to score which pushed the margin to 14 points.
Josh Jackson the iced the game in the dying seconds with a try in the corner, as the Bulldogs recorded just their fourth win of the season.
News and notes: Kayln Ponga left the field with a hamstring injury in the 15th minute, though coach Nathan Brown said he may be fit to play Origin III ... the Knights have conceded the opening try in seven of their past eight games ... Kerrod Holland has scored three try-doubles in his career ... Slade Griffin left the field in the 33rd minute with a knee injury and was later ferried to hospital ... Newcastle's 16 points was the most they have scored in a first half this season.