Victorious Knights draw smallest home crowd in 22 years
NEWCASTLE have put a dramatic fortnight behind them with a 38-4 demolition of a hapless Gold Coast in the Knights' annual old boys' day NRL clash.
Just days after coach Nathan Brown walked out on the club, the Knights ran in seven tries on Saturday to post one of their biggest wins of the season.
It came a week after a 46-4 no-show against the Wests Tigers, which prompted Brown, who had already decided to leave at season's end, to depart on Tuesday.
The victory remarkably keeps the Knights' slim finals hopes alive, lifting them to within two points of eighth-placed Cronulla, who face Canberra on Sunday.
Much of the build-up had centred on the events that led to Brown's exit, as well as the club's handling of the dramas since falling on his sword two weeks ago.
Players were also accused of giving up on their coach against the Tigers.
It all culminated in a meagre crowd of just 8274 at McDonald Jones Stadium - their lowest home turnout since 1997 - although torrential rain in the lead-up may also have been a major factor. The Knights' old boys' day is traditionally the most-celebrated home game on their calendar.
Those who did show up were treated to a Knights team, led by interim coach Kristian Woolf, who looked unburdened by their off-field woes.
Stars David Klemmer, Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce were strong, although lesser names Mason Lino and Mitch Barnett were arguably best on ground.
For the last-placed Titans, showing little resolve in slumping to their 10th-straight loss, the end of the season can't come quickly enough.
The clouds only seemed to have darkened when the Knights conceded a soft first try to Titans halfback Ryley Jacks in just the fourth minute.
However, from the moment Klemmer threw a rare pass to put Pearce over untouched 10 minutes later, the clouds lifted.
Barnett crossed next before Hymel Hunt was on the end of a 90m movement in what was easily the highlight of the afternoon.
The Titans looked destined to score before Lino intercepted close to the line, and the Knights went through four sets of hands to go the length for Hunt to score.
A Connor Watson try gave Newcastle a 20-point lead at half-time, prompting the hearty fans to give their team a standing ovation as they left the field.
The points continued to flow after the break, including a maiden try to highly touted youngster Bradman Best that was set up by Ponga.