|Tyler Randell in action for Newcastle (Photo: Rob Sheeley)|
The Newcastle Knights booked their place in the 2014 VB New South Wales Cup Grand Final with a dominant 34-10 win over the Illawarra Cutters at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
An early hat-trick of tries to Josh Mantellato featured in a professional display from the Novocastrians who controlled the encounter from the outset.
Mantellato took just 15 minutes to score all three of his tries in the north eastern corner, two of which were converted by Michael Dobson and had the Knights leading 16-0.
Mantellato’s third try was a real gem, soaring above the pack to latch onto a Dobson cross field kick and plant the ball down.
The Cutters struggled with the early ruck speed of the Knights and, along with ill discipline, it had them well and truly on the back foot.
The Illawarra side did manage to hit back with a try to Geoff Daniela in the 20th minute to put the scores at 16-4 but the resurgence was to be short-lived when the Cutters spilled the ball from the ensuing kick-off.
That allowed the Knights to go back on the attack with Pat Vaivai muscling his way over for a try. Mantellato added the extras and Newcastle led 22-4 which is how it remained until half time.
Any hope that The Cutters harboured of a miraculous comeback were quickly put to bed when the Knights opened the scoring in the second half via a Chad Redmond dummy half effort. Mantellato’s conversion made it 28-4.
A 62nd minute try to Chanel Mata’utia, converted by Mantellato, extended the Knights ascendency to 34-4 and put the result beyond doubt.
The Cutters hit back three minutes late through Tyron Cranston with Sam Duggan converting to make it 34-10.
Despite multiple opportunities in the final 18 minutes, the Illawarra team could offer no more in terms of a come back. Poor execution coupled with tireless Newcastle defensive efforts continued the trend that had been evident for most of the match and the scores would remain that way.
The win sees the Knights go one better than they did in 2013 when they were eliminated in the corresponding match. They now earn the opportunity to become the 2014 premiers when they clash with the Penrith Panthers next Sunday at Allianz Stadium in the grand final.
Newcastle Knights 34 (J Mantellato 3, P Vaivai, C Redman, C Mata’utia tries. J Mantellato 3, M Dobson 2 goals) def. Illawarra Cutters 10 (G Daniela, T Cranston tries. S Duggan goal)
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