The Newcastle Knights will face the St George Dragons in week three of the Tarsha Gale Cup finals, after downing grand final rivals Cronulla 32-26 on Good Friday.
Head coach Josh Potapczyk may have stressed ahead of the Week 2 finals clash that revenge was at the back of his squad’s mind, but after the six-point victory to knock out the defending champions the girls in red-and-blue have been afforded a moment to smile.
Carissa Harrison got the travelling side off to a strong start, crossing the line three minutes into the contest. Although Kelly Gilmour answered back for Cronulla minutes later, it was all Knights for the rest of the first 20 minutes.
Jorja Holden, Joeli Morris, and Bree O’Neill all notched up four-pointers in the ensuing 10 minutes, with Cody Campbell curving the last of the conversions between the sticks to give the Knights a 18-6 lead.
Jamie Chapman and the competition’s 2018 Player of the Year Maddison Higgins-Ashby crossed next, dragging the Sharks back into the ballgame and leveling out the score. Olivia Kernick’s unconverted try in the 35th minute gave the Knights breathing room again, but Higgins-Ashby had one final say. The star attacker grabbed her second, but with Jasmine Strange crossing moments earlier it seemed too little and too late for the Sharks.
Newcastle and Cronulla traded blows just once more each in the final ten minutes. Kalya Romaniuk scored the Knights, while Lynda Howarth put the Sharks to 26 points – six short of the winning haul.
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With Cronulla now out of the running, the Knights are the only other team to have played in the big dance in 2018. Now just the Dragons lie in wait to deny them their return.
St George have had a short run through the finals. The southern team defeated their joint-venture partners the Illawarra Steelers in a 32-30 epic in the first round of the finals, and punched their ticket straight to the preliminary finals.
Newcastle will play their second elimination final in a row when they face the Dragons on Saturday, April 27. Kickoff at St Marys League Stadium is set for 10.30am.
Newcastle Knights 32 (C Harrison, J Holden, J Morris, B O’Neill, O Kernick, K Romaniuk, J Strange tries; C Campbell, C Johnston goals) defeated Cronulla Sharks 26 (M Higgins-Ashby 2, K Gilmour, J Chapman, L Howarth tries; J Champman 2, L Kelly goals)