The Knights received a “lesson in finals footy” on Saturday afternoon, as the second-placed Tarsha Gale Cup outfit fell to the West Tigers 30-16 at HE Laybutt Reserve.
Despite finishing the regular season with an 8-1 overall record, and downing the Tigers 28-10 when they met at Campbell Stadium just five weeks ago, the Newcastle team struggled to hold out the rampaging Wests side in the second half.
The Knights took an early lead in the second half however, after Bianca Cornwell and Ally Beaufils had got the Sydney team off to a 10-nil advantage. After the two tries, the Knights hit back through all-star winger Olivia Kernick, before Carissa Harrison grabbed one either side of the half-whistle to put Newcastle up by two.
Emily Curtain, who kicked three of a potential six goals for the Tigers, crossed to put Wests back in the lead, before Newcastle’s Joeli Morris tied up proceedings at 16-apiece 42 minutes into the clash.
That was the last say the Knights were to have in the opening finals fixture, with a double from Litiana Smith-Warwick, added to by another four-pointer for Mamana Alatani between the sticks, sunk the travelling ladies in red and blue.
“It was a disappointing performance from us, and one that we didn’t really see coming,” Potapczyk said. “Considering how good we’ve been to end the regular season it was a bit disappointing, and we got a bit of a lesson in finals football.”
“A big part of our problems were allowing the opposition a few opportunities on our line, and repeat sets really just saw us run out of gas as pressure built up. That kind of thing happens in finals footy. We were down on our usual standards, and we’ll be looking to make amends this weekend.”
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The Knights now turn their attention to a sudden-death clash against the Cronulla Sharks.
Newcastle’s coach said that a “back to basics” mentality can see the Knights through the Easter weekend and into the next step of the finals, as they face the Sharks at Kogarah Oval this Friday.
“We need to get back to that high standard we’ve set throughout 2019, mostly in regards to completing sets and controlling the ruck,” the Knights mentor said.
“I said to the girls after the game, doesn’t matter who we play, we have to turn up with the right attitude or we’ll get rolled. At the end of the season, you have to be ready, and the reality is you have to beat everyone to win the competition.
“If we can get back to that basics footy that we’ve played throughout the season, and can have a big show at training this week, then we’ll be able to make amends for the first round of finals against the Sharks this weekend.
“We certainly have made it a bit harder for ourselves not getting this weekend off, but there’s no panic for us because we know what we’re capable of because with the right mindset we can beat anyone on our day. We finished equal first in the season, so we have it in us.”