The Wests Tigers have bowed out of the finals race after losing 26-16 to the Newcastle Knights at Energy Australia Stadium this evening. With Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins in attendance, the Knights put on a terrific display to welcome the worlds most beautiful woman back to her home town.
The Tigers only needed to beat the Knights to ensure themselves a place in the top eight but it was not to be. The Knights farewelled Robbie O'Davis, Ben Kennedy, Matt Parsons and Timana Tahu in style with a gutsy win over the Tigers and with the Raiders beating South Sydney, Tim Sheens and his men can look forward to Mad Monday celebrations with the other six sides who failed to qualify for the finals.
In his final swan song for the Knights, Robbie O'Davis wound back the clock to produce an inspired performance which ran high on emotion at times with O'Davis visibly upset after the siren. His cover defence was reminiscent of his early days in the game and not of a man playing his last ever game of Rugby League.
The Tigers had their chances and the effort was first class but the lack of a classy playmaker cost the Tigers in the end, who were fareweeling Scott Sattler and Darren Senter from the club, with Senter never having appeared in a post season contest. Both Ben Galea and Brett Hodgson had outstanding games in a beaten side but the emotion of the occasion was all the motivation the Knights needed to finish the season on a winning note.
Tim Sheens can be proud of his efforts to get the Tigers so close to the eight and the signs are positive for the future of the Tigers, whilst the Knights will welcome Andrew Johns back to the field next but it has to be said, they have lost a mountain of talent with Robbie O'Davis, Matt Parsons, Ben Kennedy, Timana Tahu and Michael Ennis all moving on or retiring with Melbourne's Kirk Reynoldson the only big name signing coming to the club next year.
EnergyAustralia Stadium Referee: Tim Mander
KNIGHTS 26 Tries: Hall 2, Perry, K Gidley. Goals: Gidley 5/5 defeated WESTS TIGERS 16 Tries: Galea, Senter, Harrison Goals: Hodgson 2/3
By the clock: 1st min: Kickoff! We are underway in one of the most important matches of the season. Good luck to both the Knights and Tigers.
4th min: NEWS. Mark O'Neill has been stretchered off the field after colliding with Darren Senter in a tackle on Steve Witt. A big blow for the Tigers early on.
4th min: TRY - Knights. Josh Perry scores from the ensuing play after Mark O'Neill was stretchered off. The Raiders and Sharks would be cheering loudly for the Knights at present. Conversion successful. Knights 6-0.
16th min: TRY - Tigers. Ben Galea burrows over for the Tigers first try after sustained pressure on the Newcastle line. Conversion successful. 6 all.
22nd min: TRY - Tigers. Darren Senter barges across from dummy half to extend the Tigers lead. Conversion successful. Tigers 12-6.
25th min: TRY - Knights. Craig Hall scores a great try as the Knights move the ball 100 metres in four tackles. Matt Gidley threw the money ball for Craig Hall to score not far from the posts. Conversion successful. 12 all.
HALF TIME: A very tight contest as the scoreline would suggest with the Tigers having the better of the run of play but with Mark O'Neill for the night, fatigue may be a factor late in the second half.
TRY - Knights. Craig Hall gets his second try of the night after he finished off a great run and off load from Robbie O'Davis. Conversion successful. Knights 18-12.
50th min: TRY - Tigers. Bronson Harrison scores his first try in the NRL and never more important in terms of the gravity of this match. Conversion unsuccessful. Knights 18-16.
64th min: Luke Covell misses with a penalty conversion from 40 metres out, directly in front. Still no change in the scoreline with just over fifteen minutes remaining.
66th min: TRY - Knights. Steve Simpson makes a break and sends Kurt Gidley on a run to the tryline with just under fifteen minutes remaining. Conversion successful. Knights 24-16.
74th min: PENALTY GOAL - Knights. Kurt Gidley gives some of Newcastle's favourite sons out a winner with Robbie O'Davis having a spectacular game in his farewell appearance. Knights 26-16.
FULL TIME: Newcastle have won an entertaining match, sending Robbie O'Davis, Ben Kennedy and Matt Parsons out as winners. The Tigers played their heart out but the passion and pride of the Newcastle fans played a massive part in the Knights sending their players out as winners.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - Robbie O'Davis (Knights) 2 - Brett Hodgson (Tigers) 1 - Ben Kennedy (Knights) -----------------------------------------