Five tries between wingers Tesi Niu and Jamayne Isaako lifted the Dolphins to a 36-20 victory over the Knights on Friday evening, which saw them become just the third expansion team to win their opening three games.
Niu scored twice in the first half before his third with 12 minutes to go looked to have put the result beyond doubt, only for Felise Kaufusi to then be sent to the sin bin for a late tackle which saw him put on report for the second time in the game at McDonald Jones Stadium.
It set up a nervous finish, before Isaako's double inside the last five minutes saw Wayne Bennett's side get past a stubborn Knights side who had three players appearing at NRL level for the first time, with a bench that had just 18 total games of first-grade experience.
Tabuai-Fidow finishes the long range raid
The Dolphins controlled much of the first 40 minutes to lead 16-12 at the break, but couldn't shake the plucky Knights who were led by an inspired showing from fullback Lachlan Miller, who at one stage looked set to lift his team to victory after scoring five minutes either side of the break.
After the Dolphins fought back to lead 26-18 with 11 minutes to play, following the Knights hitting the front early in the second half, Newcastle centre Bradman Best blew a golden chance to put his side back into the game when he dropped a potential try over the line, and minutes later Isaako's quick double ended any debate around the result.
Match: Knights v Dolphins
Round 3 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
- The Dolphins have become just the third expansion team to taste victory in each of their opening three games.
- The loss was the first time Newcastle have failed to win their opening home game of the year since 2014.
- Dolphins forward Felise Kaufusi was put on report twice and spent 10 of the final 11 minutes in the sin bin.
Kaufusi sent to the bin
- Knights fullback Lachlan Miller was outstanding, scoring two tries and running for 195 metres.
- Right on the 10-minute mark the Dolphins stripped the Knights for numbers with a left-side move that ended in Tesi Niu crossing and Jamayne Isaako converting.
Niu gets the Dolphins on the board
- A clever link up between halves Jackson Hastings and Tyson Gamble saw them link up for the second try, with Hastings floating a kick through with Gamble claimed under the posts, to tie scores at 6-6.
- Minutes later Hastings looked to again to have provided via the boot, but a possible try for Dane Gagai was ruled out by the Bunker which found Dominic Young had knocked on in the prior aerial contest.
- Kodi Nikorima then scored five minutes into his first NRL game of the year after catching Newcastle out with a close range burrow from dummy-half.
Nikorima takes his chance
- Niu then grabbed his second via a diving effort in the corner, but minutes later the Dolphins hit back after a nice link up between the two Lachlans, Fitzgibbon and Miller, finished in the latter scoring, with the ensuing Hastings conversion seeing the Knights trail just 16-12 at the half.
- A long-range strike from Lachlan Miller then gave Newcastle the lead for the first time in the match and off the back of it the Knights enjoyed a prolonged period of dominance.
- But as the clocked ticked the towards the final 20 minutes the Dolphins hit back through Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who grabbed his fourth try in three games this year.
- Niu's third, and a sideline conversion from Isaako strecthed the visitors' lead to eight, before Bradman Best dropped the ball over the line and blew a golden chance to hit back.
- Lachlan Miller booted a penalty to make it a one-score game, but Isaako's try five minutes from time effectively spelled the end for Newcastle.
- Knights centre Dane Gagai played his 150th game for the club in the loss
Play of the game
It wasn't enough to lift them to victory in the end, but this clever link up try between the two Lachlans, Fitzgibbon and Miller, was nice to watch. It was part of a huge game for fullback Miller, who showed his class and stepped up in the playmaking ranks in the absence of Kalyn Ponga.
Miller starts and finishes it
What they said
"We came up against a team that doesn't beat themselves and clearly they lived up to that with their completion rate. We didn't make it easy on ourselves to win, the effort was there. Some errors at the back end there really let the game get away from us." – Knights coach Adam O'Brien.
Knights: Round 3
"The good, the bad and the ugly. The good was the 30 something points, the bad was the 18 we gave up, and a lot of rubbish in between it. It [the scoreboard] certainly did [flatter us]. But it's an 80-minute game, we stayed there for the 80 minutes and scored two tries when we had 12 men." – Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.
Dolphins: Round 3
A huge Friday night showdown with the Broncos awaits the Dolphins up next. Coach Wayne Bennett will hope to have veteran forward Jarrod Wallace available again, while wing Edrick Lee (ankle) and big man Herman Ese'ese (pectoral) chances of being fit too. The Knights meanwhile will welcome the nine-day turnaround before hosting the Raiders, with hopes they'll have access to a number of injured stars again.