NT News

Pearce buries Titans’ hopes

Veteran’s big plays secure victory in a thriller

- FATIMA KDOUH

COMETH the 79th minute, cometh the man.

With the game on the line and a finals spot up for grabs, Mitchell Pearce’s field goal not only booked Newcastle a spot in September but delivered a dagger blow to the Gold Coast’s top eight chances on Thursday night.

The 15-14 win at Sunshine Coast Stadium put the Knights six points clear of fellow finals chasers Cronulla, Canberra and now the Titans.

KNIGHTS ATTACK

THE winning field goal wasn’t the only moment Pearce stood up for his side. When the Knights needed their No.7, Pearce produced a 40-20 in the 50th minute to give his side a rare chance to attack in the Titans’ red zone. But Pearce’s efforts were wasted after some poor handling from Bradman Best early in the set. It was only Newcastle’s fifth tackle in the opposition 20m zone all game.

While the Knights have improved on leaking defence in the second part of the season, attack is still a worry despite last night’s win. Newcastle’s 18 points per game average is the second worst to the Canterbury Bulldogs.

PROBING PONGA

NORMALLY locked into the left side of the field, the superstar fullback has evolved into a more roving role, probing both sides of the field. He opened the scoring for Knights last night on the left, his favoured side, but tested and prodded the Titans right hand side too. It was only the loose fingers of Hunt that denied the winger a four-pointer.

Ponga was Newcastle’s only real threat in attack, setting up halfback Mitchell Pearce with a try that helped level the match in the second half. FREAKISH CAMPBELL NOT lacking any confidence, a three-year deal was a shot in the arm of courage that the pint sized fullback will need to rough it with the NRL’s big men. Campbell answered all the questions asked of him under the ball when put under kick pressure from Mitchell Pearce and Jake Clifford.

The 78kg playmaker didn’t shy away from taking on Newcastle’s middles either and put his body on the line. Arguably the Titans best in the opening 40 minutes, Campbell will be a spine selection headache for Holbrook with regular fullback AJ Brimson out with a broken jaw.

STRANGE TACTICS

TITANS coach Justin Holbrook left his million dollar man David Fifita warming the bench for 32 minutes last night. With the match level at 6-all and in need of a game breaker the decision to inject the game’s leading tackle breaker and the club’s leading try scorer late in the first half raised eyebrows. Particular­ly because the big man ran scored a hattrick against the Knights in round 5.

 ?? Picture: Albert Perez/Getty ?? Newcastle’s Kalyn Ponga in attack against the Titans.
Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Newcastle’s Kalyn Ponga in attack against the Titans.

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