Rampant Knights close in on home playoff game as Raiders battle back

By Sports Desk September 20, 2020

Newcastle Knights are closing in on a home finals game after storming to a 42-18 win against a poor St. George Illawarra Dragons side.

With their seven-year playoff drought already sure to end, the Knights moved up to sixth in the NRL standings ahead of the final week of the regular season.

They now sit a point ahead of South Sydney Rabbitohs and are in pole position to finish sixth, meaning they would host a finals game for the first time since 2006.

The Knights play Gold Coast Titans next while the Rabbitohs meet the Sydney Roosters.

"It would certainly be great," coach Adam O'Brien said about the prospect of earning a home playoff game.

"We love playing here in front of our home, our supporters, our sponsors, our community.

"I know capacity may only be at 50% but I've been here when the place was rocking. I know how difficult it is coming up the highway to play here.

"So it would be huge. It would be great for everyone but we are not there yet." 

Five of the Knights' seven tries - all of which were converted by Mason Lino - came in the first half at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.

Centre Enari Tuala dotted down twice for the home team, while Zac Lomax ended up with 14 of the Dragons' 18 points.

In the day's other game, Canberra Raiders kept their hopes of a top-four finish alive by scoring 20 unanswered points to come from behind and beat New Zealand Warriors 26-14.

Coach Ricky Stuart fumed at a sin binning for Jack Wighton while halfback George Williams exited the game early with a head injury as the Raiders trailed 14-6 at home, Peta Hiku having scored twice for the Warriors.

But Elliott Whitehead shone in an unfamiliar position of stand-off and winger Semi Valemei crossed in both halves as Stuart's side ultimately prevailed.

The Raiders can still finish fourth but to do so they must defeat Cronulla Sharks next week and hope Parramatta Eels lose to Wests Tigers.

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    430 – Smith holds the record for most NRL games following a glittering career in the Australian competition, having debuted for the Storm in 2002. He is the only player to have amassed over 400 appearances.

    310 – He also holds the record for most wins in premiership matches. Of those victories, 242 were as skipper – the most as a captain.

    2,786 – No player has scored more points in NRL premiership history than the hooker, well ahead of Hazem El Masri (2,418) and Johnathan Thurston (2,222).

    1,295 – Smith stands alone for goals kicked in the NRL – 353 more than any other player in premiership history.

    16,913 – Not just an elite kicker, Smith tallied the most tackles by any player since the beginning of the NRL era in 1998.

    3 – Smith ends his NRL career with Premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2020. It could have been five, but the Storm were stripped of Grand Final triumphs in 2007 and 2009 due to salary-cap breaches.

    42 – A Maroons veteran, he is the most-capped player in State of Origin history. Smith first appeared for Queensland in 2003.

    56 – Smith represented Australia more than fifty times. Only Darren Lockyer (59) managed more than Smith for the Kangaroos.

    33 – Lockyer (38) is the only player to have captained Australia on more occasions than Smith, who led the country to Rugby League World Cup glory in 2013 and 2017.

    2 – Smith was crowned the NRL's best and fairest player in 2006 and 2017. Only Thurston (four) and Andrew Johns (three) earned more honours.

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