Newcastle’s sluggish start to the NRL season continued on Friday night, with the Knights bumbling their way to a 24-10 loss to Brisbane at Hunter Stadium.
Both sides will be ruing their shocking lack of respect for the ball, with a whopping 25 mistakes between the two sides lending itself to a low-quality contest.
Crucially for Brisbane, many of their errors came as they were in the process of crossing the tryline – they bombed three first-half tries, and spilled the ball within sight of the Knights tryline countless times.
But it didn’t matter as Newcastle, who have despite a much-hyped pre-season lost two of their opening three matches, never fired enough shots to make Brisbane pay for their sloppy ball control.
Newcastle winger James McManus looked to have turned the game on its head in the 55th minute when he latched onto a Corey Norman cross-field kick, before streaking 99 metres downfield to score and bring the Knights to within two points at 12-10.
But a simple backline play orchestrated by Norman nine minutes later, which resulted in an unconverted try to Brisbane winger Gerard Beale, gave Brisbane a six-point lead before a blockbusting try to forward Matt Gillett put the match beyond doubt with 10 minutes to go.
The Broncos dominated the first half but were only able to open up an eight-point buffer, with converted tries to Justin Hodges and Alex Glenn outweighing Akuila Uate’s solo effort for the Knights.
Hodges’ effort, his first of the year, was particularly classy from the powerful Queensland and Australian representative.
The silky centre glided past the normally reliable Matt Hilder, who missed nine tackles, to run 40 metres and cross down next to the posts.
Newcastle centre Wes Naiqama played just 23 minutes before succumbing to a knee injury, while both Jarrod Mullen and Uate both picked up injuries in the first half but were able to finish the game.
The Knights are already without captain Kurt Gidley, who will miss between three and five weeks with a dislocated shoulder injury, and can ill afford any more injuries ahead of a tough away fixture against Canterbury next week.