Joseph Leilua stars with three tries for the Knights.
Inspired by a hat-trick to centre Joseph Leilua, the Newcastle Knights kept their Auckland Nines campaign alive with an impressive 25-14 win over the Titans on Saturday afternoon.
On the back of some brilliant finishing work by speedsters in Leilua, Aku Uate, Dane Gagai and Jake Mamo, the men in red and blue charged to a comfortable victory in front of a packed crowd at Eden Park.
Newcastle now joins the Sharks, Tigers and Titans all on one win each, in a congested Blue Pool many experts rate as the most competitive in the tournament.
The Knights will now have to win their final match against the Tigers tomorrow (10.25am AEST), while also waiting on other results to see if they advance through to Sunday’s quarter-finals.
In the lead-up to the game, captain Jarrod Mullen wanted his side to focus more on retaining possession.
Well that’s exactly what the Knights did, using their big forwards to make metres before spreading the ball wide.
This didn’t stop the Titans from opening the scoring after just two minutes via former Knight Brad Tighe.
Tighe swooped on a kick Newcastle let bounce to score under the posts and give Gold Coast an early 7-0 advantage.
At this stage the Titans were on top, but the Knights hit back five minutes late thanks to a Jeremy Smith five-point try.
Smith took a perfectly timed inside ball from forward Zane Tetevano to stroll across the line.
Mullen added the extras to lock the scores 7-all.
The Titans were caught napping on the re-start of play, with Mullen’s kick-off going dead to earn the Knights a repeat set.
Emerging hooker Adam Clydsdale looked to have barged over from close range in the following set, but his hard-running effort was ruled no try thanks to a double movement.
Newcastle still retained possession though, allowing Uate to jump out of dummy half and set up Leilua for his first try of the game.
Mullen converted the drop-kick to give Newcastle a 11-7 lead at the break.
The second half started woefully for the Titans, with David Mead kicking out on the full.
This enabled the Knights to open the scoring in the second stanza via Leilua, who capitalised on a surging run by Gagai to grab his second.
Mullen added the extras to give his side a 17-7 advantage.
The Knights were well and truly on top and Leilua made sure of this with his third try just minutes later to extend the lead out to 21-7
Gold Coast flyer Tighe grabbed his second try to keep his side in the match at 21-14, but this sniff was soon extinguished thanks to a Mamo try.
The NYC graduate brushed off three defenders to run 15 metres, score and seal a vital win for the Knights.
KNIGHTS 25 (J Smith bonus try; J Leilua 3, J Mamo tries; J Mullen 2/4 goals) def TITANS 14 (B Tighe 2 bonus tries; K Gordon 2/2 goals)