After a narrow loss to Cronulla in round 8 and a thrashing last week at the hands of the Raiders the Knights were determined to get their season back on track and did so in style, Jarrod Mullen and Darius Boyd putting in star performances to inspire the home side to a 44-8 victory in front of 18,982 fans.
Captain Kurt Gidley got the Knights on the board early, drifting across field and laying on a good pass for second-rower Robbie Rochow on the charge. Rochow ran a good out-line to split Josh Morris and Sam Perrett, before showing off his footwork to step inside Ben Barba for the try after just 6 minutes of play.
Ten minutes later the Knights began a period of sustained pressure on the Bulldogs line, Mullen running to the line and putting in a deft chip that led to Krisnan Inu being caught in-goal and the Knights earning a repeat set on the Bulldogs’ line. They nearly capitalised on this opportunity, Rochow and Gidley again combining when the second rower split the defence down the middle of the field, Gidley taking the offload in support before being dragged down a metre short of the line. Mullen’s kicking was again a threat, the defence unable to properly defuse the cross-field bomb and a knock-on saw the pressure mount on the visitors’ line. Suitably it was a Mullen kick that saw the Knights extend their lead just a few plays later, the five-eighth kicking early in the set for winger Kevin Naiqama, brought in for the injured Aku Uate, who collected easily on the right flank for a try.
The Bulldogs regrouped and with the help of some ill discipline from the Knights started to create opportunities of their own, finally hitting back in the shadows of half time. A penalty put them inside Knights territory, and it was Josh Jackson who deserved credit for creating the opportunity for the play. He hit, spun and pushed half through the line on the previous play, putting the Knights in disarray and earning a quick play the ball. The Bulldogs swung the ball left to James Graham, who channelled his inner halfback to take on the line and play the short ball to Frank Pritchard. Hitting a gap opened up by a disoriented Robbie Rochow Pritchard sliced through easily to score.
There was further joy points-wise for the Bulldogs just before half time, as Rochow was then ruled to have performed a shoulder charge on Trent Hodkinson as he was kicking. A penalty in front of the sticks was slotted by Hodkinson for the two points, and the score at the break was 12-8 to the Knights.
The small period before half time would be the only time the Bulldogs troubled the scorers as the Knights ran rampant in the second stanza, scoring 32 unanswered points.
The Bulldogs’ troubles started early in the second half and stemmed from terrible discipline and a piece of magic from Darius Boyd. After four successive sets on the Bulldogs’ line and only four penalties added to the tally to show for it the fullback creating a try from nothing, having received the ball flat-footed behind the play after a slow play the ball. He noticed a gap in the Bulldogs’ defence and kicked early, putting in a grubbing kick behind Krisnan Inu. James McManus was alert to the situation, racing through to beat Inu and Ben Barba to the ball for a try. Boyd was in the thick of things again minutes later, this time scoring after Tyrone Roberts produced a special piece of play of his own. The halfback took on the line, selling the dummy and skipping past a squared-up Sam Kasiano. Drawing the cover he found the fullback in support on his left, Boyd crossing for a try of his own. Roberts converted both tries to put his side up 24-8.
There was a brief respite for the visitors as Kurt Gidley elected to take a penalty goal after James McManus made a break and the Bulldogs failed to retreat the full 10m, but it was soon back to business for the Knights as they piled on another three converted tries late in the second half. Willie Mason and Adam Cuthbertson were the orchestrators of the first, Mason producing a fantastic offload after pushing through the defensive line. Cuthbertson collected, hit, spun and produced some second-phase of his own, the Knights whipping the ball wide to catch the Bulldogs short and allow Joseph Leilua to sneak over in the corner.
Two more tries could be credited directly to the magic boot of Jarrod Mullen, his kicking game on song as he first kicked through the line for Dane Gagai, who collected and found Kurt Gidley for more points under the sticks. Minutes later he was at it again, chipping for Darius Boyd. Boyd pulled off a fine one-handed catch on the run, sucking in the cover defence before going to Kevin Naiqama racing up on his inside in support. Naiqama cut outside, inside and busted through two to slam the ball down for his second, Gidley converting 5 from 5 attempts and a penalty goal to add to Roberts’ 2/2, the Knights running out 44-8 winners in emphatic fashion.