A NASTY injury to fullback Nathan Ross overshadowed Newcastle’s 26-10 win against the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
Ross fielded a kick in the 49th minute and, as he bent over to gather up the ball, was hit from behind by Warriors centre Blake Ayshford.
Ayshford’s knee appeared to strike Ross right in the middle of his back and Newcastle’s No.1 immediately screamed in pain.
After a lengthy delay for treatment, he was helped off the field. Once he crossed the sideline, he lay down and was eventually taken from the playing arena on a medicab.
The Knights later confirmed he had been taken to hospital for further assessment and Ross later tweeted that he was “doing fine, just waiting on scans”.
Ross’s injury dampened the celebrations after Newcastle’s second successive victory, which followed last week’s boilover against St George Illawarra.
It was the first time the Knights have won back-to-back games in almost two years, since rounds 23 and 24 of 2015, when they beat Wests Tigers and then Melbourne.
The win lifted Newcastle to within two points of second-last Wests Tigers, with four games to play.
Newcastle overcame a dreadful start, when winger Ken Sio dropped the kick-off, to lead 16-4 at half-time.
Lock Mitch Barnett, who had not scored a try in his previous 17 games this season, crashed over twice in the first 10 minutes.
Both tries were converted by halfback Trent Hodkinson, who also added penalty goals in the 35th and 38th minutes.
The Warriors’ lone points before half-time came from a try in the right corner by winger Ken Fusitu’a.
Newcastle appeared to have the game under control when back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon scored his fourth try of the season, in the 59th minute, but the Warriors reduced the deficit to 20-10 when replacement Nathaniel Roache scored six minutes later and hooker Issac Luke converted.
The Knights iced the result in the 72nd minute when co-captain Sione Mata’utia broke clear, passed inside to Josh King and Brock Lamb scored.
It capped a man-of-the-match performance from Lamb, who also set up Barnett’s opening try and Fitzgibbon’s four-pointer.
FULL-TIME: The Knights have done it, back-to-back for the first time in nearly two years. Brock Lamb was the Knights best, laying on two tries and scoring one himself. The Knights were pretty dominant in the end after a good start. The Warriors awful away record continues. Stick around at theherald.com.au for a match report from Robert Dillon and all of the reaction from the post-game press conference.
73rd MIN: Update from the Knights: Nathan Ross has been taken to hospital.
72nd MIN: That was just an awesome team try. The Knights are playing with renewed vigour and confidence. Simply put, they look like a team again. It’s really encouraging if you’re a Knights fan. This time it’s Brock Lamb that finishes it off after some great lead-up work from Sione Mata’utia and Josh King. Knights 26-10.
65th MIN: After much deliberation, the video ref has awarded a try to Nathaniel Roache after some sloppy lead-up play. The Warriors are still in this. Knights 20-10.
59th MIN: Brock Lamb might just be having his best game in first grade. After a shocker a few weeks ago against the Bulldogs, the young five-eighth has bounced back and showed his class in the past two games. This time he’s laying on another Knights try as Lachlan Fitzgibbon bursts through to touch down. 20-4 Knights.
49th MIN: Real concern here for Nathan “Ross Dog” Ross. He’s been down on the ground for a while after fielding a kick and getting tackled.
HALFTIME: And another penalty and another two points for the Knights, who take a 16-4 lead to the break. But can they hold on to claim their second-straight win?
36th MIN: The Warriors are offside on their own line and so Trent Hodkinson will knock over a penalty goal. 14-4.
26th MIN: David Fusitua bagged a four-try haul last year against the Knights. Here he bloody is, popping up again in that right-hand corner, stretching out and touching down. The Warriors hit back after a very uninspiring 15 minutes or so. Knights lead 12-4.
10th MIN: This could be anything. Mitch Barnett, who hadn’t scored a try this year, has now crossed twice in 10 minutes. The Warriors don’t look like they’ve gotten off the, erm, plane here. The Knights well on top. 12-0.
6TH MIN: There are holes galore out there in the Warriors’ defensive line. Mitch Barnett jogs through one off a nice Brock Lamb ball and the Knights lead 6-0.
0:04 seconds in: Kenny Sio has not dropped a ball all year and he puts one down off the kick-off. Worst possible start for the Knights.
August 24, 2015.
That’s the last time the Newcastle Knights won back-to-back games in the NRL.
The Warriors have struggled on the road this year, picking up just a solitary win over the Gold Coast Titans in Round 14.
There has been a few team changes, with Chanel Mata’utia shifting to the wing for Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who is out with a tight hamstring.
Joe Wardle is also out due to illness, with Lachlan Fitzgibbon starting and Sam Stone coming onto the bench.
Follow along with the Newcastle Herald’s live blog and we’ll have a match report on full-time and all of the reaction from the post-game press conferences.
1. Nathan Ross, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 21. Chanel Mata'utia, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Jamie Buhrer, 10. Josh King, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Luke Yates, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 19. Sam Stone.
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. David Fusitu’a, 3. Blake Ayshford, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Kieran Foran, 7. Mason Lino, 8. Jacob Lillyman, 9. Issac Luke, 15. Sam Lisone, 13. Simon Mannering, 12. Bunty Afoa, Interchange: 10. Ben Matulino, 12. Isaah Papali'i, 17. James Bell, 22. Nathaniel Roache.