Canterbury winger Jacob Kiraz enjoyed a stellar return to Newcastle, scoring a hat-trick as the Bulldogs beat the Knights 24-10 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
The Bulldogs ran in four tries to two, racking up more than 20 points for the fourth time in five weeks to pile on more home ground pain for the Knights this season.
Both clubs sat alongside each other on the Telstra Premiership ladder going into the contest but the difference in form and confidence between both couldn't be any more apart.
Kiraz, who spent the off-season training with the Knights before gaining a release to return to Canterbury this year, had a treble by the 44th minute as the Bulldogs racked up a 24-4 lead.
Newcastle enjoyed most of the possession and field position in the second half but as has been their story for the season, the side's attack left a lot to be desired as the side continues to search for answers.
Kiraz the contortionist makes it three
The Knights opted to play Jake Clifford and Anthony Milford in the halves but the side were on the back foot from the kick-off as the Bulldogs went close to scoring through Josh Addo-Carr.
Two tries from the Bulldogs through Kiraz in the opening 10 minutes set the tone before Enari Tuala jagged a try back.
It was all one-way traffic after that, however, with Aaron Schoupp finishing off an Addo-Carr and Matt Burton special before Kiraz got a third immediately after half-time to set up victory for the visitors.
Match: Knights v Bulldogs
Round 20 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
- Canterbury have now won four of their last six games to climb to outright 12th on the ladder.
- The Knights had 37 tackles in Canterbury's 20-metre zone but couldn't score more than two tries for the afternoon.
- Newcastle have now won just one of their last eight games on home turf and have conceded on average 31.9 points points per game.
- Jacob Kiraz scored the first hat-trick of his NRL career, taking his tally to six since making his debut in round seven.
- Knights utility Phoenix Crossland was placed on report for a lifting tackle in the 39th minute, which enabled the Bulldogs to take an eight-point lead at the break.
- Bulldogs forward Paul Vaughan celebrated his 200th NRL appearance in the victory.
Play of the game
The old saying a winger shouldn't ever pass to another winger might apply but a kick is another story with Josh Addo-Carr's effort to set up Jacob Kiraz for his second of the afternoon one for the highlight reels.
Winger to Winger for a special try
What they said
"The first 10 minutes, the first two sets was a shock. Something I didn't see coming in our set. I was really concerned after the first two sets of the game. I'm not quite sure why we would do that. With our attack we missed him (Kalyn Ponga) with the flow and amount of ball we had down there. He's a very good player in terms of attack but at the end of the day that hasn't been our issue this year it's been our defence and resilience, that's my most concern." - Knights coach Adam O'Brien.
"It was a bit stressful, we had to do a little bit of defence in the second half. I was really happy we showed a bit of resilience to hold them out. The first half was good and we executed some plays well. I think they're playing well and are playing a brand of footy that suits them. I think they're enjoying their footy and I'm happy for the players and the fans and everyone around." - Bulldogs coach Mick Potter.
NRL Press Conference: Knights v Bulldogs - Round 20, 2022
Canterbury will take their home game next week to Bundaberg and take on a Cowboys side aiming for a top four finish.
The struggling Knights head to Campbelltown for an away trip against the Wests Tigers, who will fancy their chances as they aim to get off the bottom of the ladder.