Knights 38 Tigers 20
Clean set of heels ... Timana Tahu of the Knights makes a break. Photo: Getty Images
PLAYING with the confidence they have lacked for most of the season, Newcastle rallied from a 14-0 deficit to shock Wests Tigers 38-20 at Hunter Stadium last night and register the side's first win in 56 days.
Newcastle's first home victory over the Tigers since 2004 ended their five-game losing streak, was their highest score this season and kept their faint finals hopes alive.
Searching for answers ... Robbie Farah. Photo: Getty Images
The Knights probably still need to win at least eight of their last 10 games to have any chance of playing in the post-season, and hope one of the teams now in the eight suffers a dramatic late-season collapse, but the effort, enthusiasm and enterprise Knights fans have been crying out for all season was there in spades.
''It's not going to hurt anybody, I can tell you,'' Knights coach Wayne Bennett said of the six-tries-to-three victory, which included a hat-trick for Timana Tahu.
''Confidence is something that is a bit hard to define - where it comes from, what gives it to you and where it goes at times. I would suggest that probably we need to do it two or three weeks in a row and then maybe we'll start to have some real belief.
Chris Lawrence puts on a fend. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
''But we'd lost five games in a row and down 14-0, they had to find a little bit of belief tonight, and to their credit they did that, so that's pretty special stuff. I've said that about them before, they can do some special things these guys, we've just got to do it on a consistent basis.''
Captain Danny Buderus paid tribute to the crowd of 18,637. Some of those fans had booed the Knights from the field after their last-start 32-16 loss to Canberra 16 days earlier, but they stood and clapped and cheered after full-time last night.
Newcastle had not tasted success since beating Penrith 34-14 in their last Monday night game, at Hunter Stadium on April 30, and they looked anything but winners trailing 14-0 after 23 minutes last night.
Tahu rolls back the years to inspire Knights
The Knights racked up their highest score this season, including a Timana Tahu hat-trick in 11 minutes either side of half-time. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
But a scrum penalty on their own line in the 26th minute, the result of Tigers prop Ray Cashmere instigating a scuffle with Kade Snowden, swung momentum the Knights' way and they finished the half with three tries to lead 16-14 at the break.
Tahu scored three tries in 11 minutes either side of half-time, then when second-rower Chris Houston crossed from Jarrod Mullen's pass in the 57th minute, the Knights led one of the title favourites 28-14 and were on their way to victory.
Buderus said it was critical for his side to build on last night's display with a similar effort against the Eels at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday.
''We finally gave ourselves a chance tonight,'' Buderus said. ''The mistakes we've been making have just not been up to par with what we're trying to do.
''The confidence, like Wayne said, it's something you can't get back in 80 minutes. You've got to build on it, have another good week at training this week and another good game.
''But like I said, there's some hope there and some belief for the fans especially. I think they had a bit of hope today, to cheer for 80 minutes about something. That's one of the real positives from tonight. … I don't think many clubs could have done that - five on the bounce losing, and they turn up on a Monday with 18,000.
''Don't forget what we turned up with last round, and pretty much got booed off the field, so for them to turn up and cheer us on again, that's an amazing thing.''
Tigers coach Tim Sheens said his side did little wrong in the first 20 minutes but were unable to establish a foothold for the rest of the game.
''That's two weeks in a row now we've been lethargic in defence,'' he said. ''I'm not happy with it at all.''
Asked about the unsettling effect of the recent death of Tigers skipper Robbie Farah's mother Sonia, Sheens replied: ''We're not going to use that as an excuse at all.''
Tigers fullback Tim Moltzen suffered a hamstring injury in the first few minutes and Sheens said it could sideline him for two to three weeks.
The win meant the Knights reclaimed the Allan McMahon Shield, at stake between the sides, for the first time since 2006.
NEWCASTLE 38 (T Tahu 3 C Houston J McManus A Uate tries T Roberts 7 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 20 (M Iosefa C Lawrence L Tuqiri tries B Marshall 4 goals) at Hunter Stadium.
Referee: Gerard Sutton, Phil Haines. Crowd: 18,637.