|Match Date||30th Jul, 2000|
|Venue||Newcastle (Marathon Stadium)|
THE game went pretty much according to the script, except for the few occasions when Knights captain Tony Butterfield said they "lost the plot".
Director and Newcastle coach Warren Ryan called the shots from the sidelines, as the Knights vanquished the bad guys to snare third spot on the NRL ladder and set up an all-important home final.
Leading man Butterfield saluted the massive 25,948 parochial local crowd with a try in his last "official" home match.
It was an eventful day for "Butts" as he was placed on report for a late tackle, although it appears he has little case to answer.
Local hero Matthew Johns, who along with Peter Shiels and David Fairleigh was also playing his last home game before heading to England, also starred with a couple of clever grubber kicks that resulted in Butterfield's try and another four-pointer to fullback Adam MacDougall.
The game literally had it all. Big crowd. Big occasion. The right result. Laps of honour. And plenty to cheer about. But not everyone was happy with the performance.
The truth was that the Knights were hardly Oscar-material against the battling Bulldogs and were actually trailing 16-14 at half-time.
Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes said he had not been impressed by Newcastle's performance and rated Brisbane and Melbourne as the danger teams for the NRL premiership title.
"I don't know if they'd be all that happy. the way they played today." Folkes said yesterday. "If Newcastle play that sort of touch football like they did today. I don't think they can win it — but I've been wrong before."
The Knights passed off the effort as a by-product of the emotion surrounding the day and were confident of having things back on track against Melbourne. for the second qualifying final next week.
"I think mentally we got a little carried away with what was going on — we had trouble just calming down and dealing with the problems." Butterfield said.
"There was a little bit of panic out there, mild panic. but we dealt with that."
That panic was obvious in the first half. The Knights created plenty of try-scoring opportunities, but struggled to convert them into points against their less-fancied opponents.
The Bulldogs took an early 2-0 lead through a Daryl Halligan penalty goal and extended that when Dennis Scott charged onto a terrific offload from Corey Hughes to score under the posts.
The Marathon crowd fell silent as they contemplated the unthinkable — an upset that would ruin their finals position but, more importantly, spoil the party planned for Butterfield, Johns and co.
Newcastle must have been sharing the same thought because they suddenly snapped into life. The passes started sticking and the points started ticking as Matthew Gidley and Butterfield crossed the Bulldogs' line in the space of five minutes to take the lead.
But a knock-on from ' Knights winger Lenny Beckett ',two minutes before half-time saw the Bulldogs under the posts again, this time on the back of a brilliant, individual effort from fullback Hazem El Masri, who beat four defenders before stretching out to score.
"I think half-time couldn't come soon enough and it was good just to take a breath and take stock," Butterfield said. "We came out and we got back to our game plan in the second half and played like we had planned to all week."
The game plan started again when Andrew Johns ran the ball on the last tackle and popped a nice pass inside for Ben Kennedy to score. Johns missed the conversion, but the Knights had the lead back and every-thing was right again in the world. The Knights would not surrender their lead and even turned up the volume, in attack and defence, to score two more unanswered tries.
The celebrations started once the win was sealed. There was a lap of honour by the team and a group of former Knights players and administrators, aka the "Old Boy's Club". Next came a moving tribute to Fairleigh, Shiels. Johns and Butterfield from former Newcastle captain and local legend, Paul "The Chief" Harragon.
The overall celebration was later described by Ryan as better than Wayne Pearce's big occasion at Leichhardt Oval and therefore, the best he had ever seen. Johns said he was happy the emotion of the day was over so he could concentrate on next week, but was happier the team had finished the season in third spot. It was, after all, where Melbourne finished last year and we all know how that script unfolded.Source: The Australian
|Hazem El Masri||Fullback||1||0||0||4|
|Brent Sherwin||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Corey Hughes||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Jamie Feeney||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Reardon||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Dennis Scott||Front Row||1||0||0||4|
|Darren Britt||Front Row||0||0||0||0|