KNIGHTS 10 BRONCOS 24
Juggling act ... Richie Fa'Aoso of the Knights offloads the ball under pressure of the Brisbane defence. Photo: Cameron Spencer
BRISBANE ran roughshod over a battered and disjointed Newcastle outfit for a comprehensive 24-10 victory at Hunter Stadium last night.
A 99-metre try by Newcastle winger James McManus against the run of play, converted by Matt Hilder, trimmed Brisbane's lead to 12-10 in the 55th minute.
McManus reeled in Corey Norman's testing cross-field bomb one metre in front of Newcastle's line and the Flying Scotsman streaked away from the Brisbane chasers to score, resuscitating the Knights, who until that point looked like they were on life support.
But late tries by Gerard Beale (64th minute) and Matt Gillett (70th minute) sealed the win.
The Broncos dominated the first half to lead 12-4 at the break, and the wounded Knights were fortunate to be that close.
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin was pleased to have put in a strong defensive display after last round's 28-26 loss to North Queensland, and praised the work of his forward pack which was ably led by man-of-the-match Ben Hannant in the absence of workaholic lock Corey Parker.
"After last week, the thing we wanted to do tonight was no matter what the result, we wanted to come back and get some character back into our performance and into our defence," Griffin said.
"That was our main goal tonight and we did that tonight."
Knights prop Adam Cuthbertson and centre Wes Naiqama suffered knee injuries in the first half and were replaced, and halfback Jarrod Mullen and winger Akuila Uate stayed on the field but were both hobbling.
Coach Wayne Bennett confirmed Naiqama faces a six-week stint on the sideline with his knee injury.
Mullen was favouring his left ankle after a heavy tackle in the 19th minute, and Uate was limping after defusing a bomb six minutes later.
The Knights were on the back foot after a forward dummy-half pass from Danny Buderus to Chris Houston in the fourth minute gifted the Broncos the ball from the subsequent scrum. Before the end of the set, back-rower Alex Glenn beat attempted tackles by Houston, Naiqama and fullback Darius Boyd to touch down, and Wallace converted for a 6-0 lead.
Boyd and Hilder, a late change at five-eighth for Ryan Stig, both lost the ball close to their own line in the eighth minute and the Knights had to defend desperately to avoid going further behind.
Cuthbertson received treatment after hyper-extending his right knee when tackled in the 12th minute but the delay in play did the Knights no harm, as Uate crossed out wide after a back-line movement from the play-the-ball.
Richie Fa'aoso spilled the ball close to the half-way line in the 29th minute, and Queensland and Australian centre Justin Hodges made him pay immediately. From the base of the subsequent scrum, Hodges took a pass, brushed Hilder aside, and loped 40 metres to score.
Wallace's conversion extended Brisbane's advantage to eight points at the break.
Bennett couldn't hide his disappointment post-game, lamenting the woeful performance and admitting he felt sorry for the crowd of just under 25,000.
"I'm really disappointed for them tonight," Bennett said.
"You don't want to deal that up to them and I think that's what hurts them most of all, you just feel you've let them down a little bit.
"They'll just have to ride this path with us right now."
Bennett said the club was on a rocky road, and didn't expect the results to come immediately - but that he was determined to drag them away from the inconsistent group of recent seasons.
"We've got a choice. We can be the team they've been the last couple of years or we can aspire to be better than that," he said.
"That's where we're heading. We want to be better. That means change."
BRISBANE 24 (A Glenn, J Hodges, G Beale, M Gillett; P Wallace 4 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 10 (A Uate, J McManus tries; M Hilder goal) at Hunter Stadium. Referees: Shayne Hayne, Gavin Morris.Crowd: 23,894.