NRL KNIGHTS BULLDOGS
Canterbury have ruled a line under a horror month with a 36-16 NRL win over an injury-ravaged Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Knights lost Kalyn Ponga (hamstring) and Slade Griffin (knee) to worrying injuries during the first half on Saturday night as the Dogs snapped a four-game losing streak.
Ponga is now racing to be fit for State of Origin III, while Griffin was taken to hospital amid fears he'd suffered the fourth ACL tear of his career.
After being reduced to 15 men in the first half, the young Knights didn't have enough in the tank as the Dogs rebounded.
Canterbury lost 494 games worth of NRL experience after Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods made mid-season departures and Kieran Foran (foot) and Raymond Faitala-Mariner (knee) suffered season-ending injuries.
Their season hit a low ebb during their 32-10 pasting at the hands of Gold Coast before the representative-round bye, with coach Dean Pay admitting they paid the price for a lacklustre preparation.
However, they didn't make the same mistake in the lead-up to their clash with the Knights.
"It just wasn't up to standard, our preparation. The boys, they spoke about it - it wasn't just me," Pay said.
"We've got a really strong leadership group - (Josh Jackson) and (David Klemmer) and Adam Elliott and Aiden Tolman. All these type of guys, they're strong characters and they said themselves it was unacceptable."
Five-eighth Lachlan Lewis, the nephew of Queensland great Wally Lewis, was solid in his first match, copping plenty of treatment from the Knights, while Pay also blooded forward Ofahiki Ogden.
The Knights led 16-12 at the break thanks to a Connor Watson double but the Dogs turned the corner after the break.
Winger Reimis Smith took advantage of a massive overlap to go over then three minutes later put it on the toe for Jeremy Marshall-King, who planted it over the line.
When Fa'amanu Brown burrowed over from dummy-half in the 73rd, it put the result beyond doubt before skipper Josh Jackson scored a deserving try on the bell.
Ponga went down in a 14th-minute tackle from Lewis and didn't return. The severity of his injury wasn't immediately clear and he'll be sent for scans.
Brown said Griffin, who made his international debut for New Zealand last weekend, was in considerable pain after possibly tearing several ligaments.
"Our left edge didn't have a day they'd be happy with," Knights coach Nathan Brown said.
"But I think we competed and our forwards worked really hard to force errors. It was more our decision-making that cost us.
"People might laugh at me looking at the result but at 24-16 we gave ourselves some good opportunities to score and we didn't get our decision-making right.
"Off the back of that, Canterbury held us out for an extensive period."