NRL KNIGHTS TITANS
Newcastle have showed the difference Mitchell Pearce makes as they scored 20 points in the final 25 minutes to come from behind and beat the Gold Coast 30-24 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Just a week after his return from a pectoral injury, the Knights claimed their second straight NRL win and seized back-to-back victories for just the fourth time since the start of 2016.
It leaves for a season of what could have been, given the the Knights likely have to win at least five, and possibly six, of their last six game to have any hope of playing finals.
Newcastle's record with Pearce this year is now six-from-nine, compared with a two-from-nine without him.
"With Junior (Pearce) there controlling the play and kicking the ball, and blokes around him doing their job, we appear like we have a team that is developing," Knights coach Nathan Brown said.
"It makes it a bit easier for the rest of the blokes."
Pearce wasn't the star on Saturday but his composure was key after the Knights fell 24-10 behind early in the second half.
The match swung when Gold Coast five-eighth AJ Brimson was downed with a serious head knock.
Play was stopped for three minutes after he got himself in an awkward position while attempting to tackle Newcastle's Lachlan Fitzgibbon, and he was taken from the field for a head injury assessment.
The injury forced Mitch Rein, who had been influential in two of the Titans' tries, out of dummy-half and into five-eighth, and Fitzgibbon ran through him to score on the following set.
Mitch Barnett crossed four minutes later - again from first-receiver - to bring the Knights back within two before they kicked a penalty goal.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall then gave the Knights an unlikely lead when Connor Watson went down the short side and turned the ball back inside to his centre to cross with eight minutes to play.
The Knights held on to claim the win, moving them up to 18 competition points and level with 10th-placed Canberra but only behind on for-and-against.
"You hope your more experienced players naturally get into the players where the game is," Brown said.
"AJ going off has an effect on them, and when you get people playing out of position, it makes the game hard."
The Titans appeared to have control of the match after Rein dominated the tempo either side of halftime.
He was held up once, threw a flick pass before a Moeaki Fotuaika try before halftime and created space for another for Phillip Sami after the break.
"He was doing a fantastic job at No.9, and when he moved out of there we lost a bit of momentum here," Titans coach Garth Brennan said.
"We just lost our way a little bit out there."