The Newcastle Knights climbed into the top four on a pleasant afternoon in Merewether, waltzing to a 78-14 victory over a Western Suburbs side that could charitably be described as missing in action in the first half.
The tone was set early for the Magpies, with prop Jay Maseuli leaving the field with a knee injury after just one tackle in the match.
Things got worse in the first set of six for the Magpies, with Knights hooker Chris Adams busting through some feeble defence to open the Knight’s account for the afternoon. Josh Mantellato converted to put Newcastle up 6-0 inside three minutes.
A penalty for a high tackle off the kick off allowed Newcastle to find some quality field position, with Adrian Davis showing some impressive footwork to bamboozle the Magpies defence and touch down adjacent to the posts. Mantellato added the extras for 12-0.
A dubious knock on decision hurt Wests on ten minutes, with Adrian Davis again putting his Fittler-esque left foot step to good use, strolling through a gaping hole in Wests line to put on his second try. Mantellato added a slightly more difficult conversion to send the Knights ahead 18-0 inside ten minutes.
A left side raid from inside their own half on 15 minutes proved unsuccessful for Wests, with Newcastle hooker Chris Adams posting his second try after a simple run around. By now, Josh Mantellato had the ball on a string, popping the conversion over for the Knights, now ahead 24-0 after just a quarter hour.
Things just got worse for Wests, with a grubber kick taking more deflections than a pinball before Nathan Ross managed to find the white stripe for Newcastle. Josh Mantellato sent the difficult conversion attempt not just through the posts but almost to Swansea, with the Knights 30-0 up after 20 minutes of football.
A spate of Knights penalties only provided a temporary halt to the Knights points spree, with Evarn Tuimavave showing impressive strength to wrestle through three Magpie defenders to score the sixth Newcastle try of the afternoon. Josh Mantellato raised the flags and Newcastle were up 36-0 after 25 minutes.
The Knights broke 40 on the half hour, with Magpies custodian Zoram Watene spilling a tricky bomb under pressure, allowing Warren Schillings to score a fairly simple try. Josh Mantellato converted for 42-0.
The Magpies came close to scoring on 38 minutes, but a loose pass allowed the Knights to race 60 metres downfield. From the ensuing play, a left hand spread allowed Melbourne-bound Junior Sau to score. Josh Mantellato potted the conversion to leave Newcastle up 48-0.
The ignomy of the first half wrapped up after a driving kick from Adrian Davis allowed Nathan Ross to score his second of the day. Another magnificent kick from Mantellato left the Magpies down 54-0 at the break.
The second half did not start well for Wests, with a wonderful around the corner pass from Joel Edwards allowing Mitch Williams to open the second half account of the Knights. Josh Mantellato picked up where he left off, with Newcastle hitting 60 just three minutes into the second stanza.
Canberra-bound Edwards showed his handiwork again on 45 minutes, with a glorious bullet pass resulting in Siuatonga Likiliki notching up a four pointer near the western touchline. Josh Mantellato was performing party tricks by now, with an enormous conversion leaving the Knights 66-0 up after 45 minutes.
Newcastle didn’t need any such ball skills to register their 12th try, with Junior Sau somehow finding the line with four Magpies hanging off him. Josh Mantellato made it 72-0 with a half hour remaining.
Knights halfback Adrian Davis made it a hat-trick for the afternoon on 58 minutes, with yet another left step allowing him to touch down under the posts for lucky number 13. Josh Mantellato again converted, sending Newcastle out to 78-0 with 22 minutes still to play.
Faced with the very real possibility of having three figures posted against them, the Magpies found some resolve and go forward. On 63 minutes, it paid dividends, with a mixup between Wes Naiqama and Nathan Ross seeing a Nigel Millgate bomb go to ground. Greg Davis was on hand to touch down for the Magpies, with even the most one-eyed Knights fans applauding the Magpie’s never say die attitude. Latu Fifita converted with a little help from the uprights, the Knights ahead 78-6.
Their try seemed to spur Wests into life, and a trio of strong runs down their right hand flank resulted in a sweeping backline movement to the left, with a game of hot potato eventually leaving Michael La Manna as the tryscorer at the end. Latu Fifita sprayed the conversion attempt wide, with the Knights up 78-10 after 69 minutes.
Three minutes later the Magpies found space on the left, with Keanu Rogers finding space on a 40 metre raid. A quick play the ball allowed Nigel Millgate to put in a gloriously placed kick, with Greg Davis on hand to mark the ball on his chest and score in the corner. Trent Touma failed with the conversion attempt, the Knights in front 78-14 with eight minutes to play.
The Knights looked determined to punish Wests for their cheek in the last eight minutes, but some gritty defence saw the Magpies out, with Michael La Manna coming up with a cover tackle on Josh Mantellato that would have made Steve Mortimer proud.
While the Newcastle defence lacked intensity in the final quarter, their attack certainly didn’t, and the confidence garnered from finally posting points saw the Magpies stand up in defence to prevent a second 80-point scoreline against them this season.
For the Knights, Adrian Davis toyed with the Magpies defence, while Joel Edwards demonstrated just what a good player the Canberra Raiders have picked up for 2013. Josh Mantellato played like an extra forward, often pushing through bigger Magpie defenders with his strength.
For the Magpies, Seffa Silafu and Michael Lekkas were giants in attack and defence, while Henry Godinet looked dangerous out of dummy half when brought on.
Wests will look to post their first win of the season in their final home game against Mounties next Saturday at Campbelltown, with a 3pm kickoff, while the Knights, having secured a playoff spot and moving into the top four, will host minor premiership hopefuls North Sydney next Sunday at 3pm.
NEWCASTLE 78 (Adrian Davis 3, Chris Adams 2, Nathan Ross 2, Junior Sau 2, Evarn Tuimavave, Warren Schillings, Mitch Williams, Siuatonga Likiliki tries; Josh Mantellato 13 from 13) DEF WESTERN SUBURBS 14 (Greg Davis 2, Michael La Manna tries; Latu Fifita 1 from 2, Trent Touma 0 from 1)
Halftime: Newcastle 54 Wests 0
Penalties: Newcastle 9 Wests 2
Scrums: Newcastle 6 Wests 6
1. Wes Naiqama
2. Josh Mantellato
3. Junior Sau
24. Siuatonga Likiliki
5. Nathan Ross
23. Ethan Cook
7. Adrian Davis
25. Evarn Tuimavave
9. Chris Adams
10. Shaun Boss
21. Joel Edwards
11. Matt Hilder
13. Sam Anderson
12. Warren Schillings
14. Mitch Williams
17. Daine Laurie
20. Dylan Smith
1. Zoram Watene
2. Greg Davis
3. Amonono Tovio
4. Keanu Rogers
5. Michael La Manna
6. Chris Nay
7. Trent Touma
8. Seffa Silafau
9. Nigel Millgate
10. Jay Maseuli
11. Michael Lekkas
12. Latu Fifita
13. Alan Daly
14. Henry Godinet
15. Daniel La Manna
16. Tom Pritchard
21. Tuki Jackson