13/04/2024

(Photo: NRLW/Twitter)

The Newcastle Knights recorded their first-ever NRLW win, defeating the Brisbane Broncos 32-14. Last year’s wooden spooners looked sharp and were full value for the win in the inaugural NRLW night game.

The Knights were active in the offseason, adding a pair of former Broncos in fullback Tamika Upton and prop Millie Boyle. The transfers constitute a colossal blow to the four-time minor premiers and three-time NRLW champions.

However, it was a debutant, the youngest ever in NRLW history, who impacted the match early. Jesse Southwell, born 17 years and 190 days ago, required a special exemption from the league to play this season.

The talented youngster used a right-foot step to create a gap in the Broncos’ line and finished off the 10-metre run in style, scoring the Knights’ first try of the season after just five minutes.

Kirra Dibb successfully converted to give Newcastle a 6-0 lead.

A sequence of penalties and errors ensued, and Brisbane slowly gained territory.

Brisbane halfback Ali Brigginshaw passed to winger Julia Robinson who created a seam in the Knights’ defence, before powering through former teammate Upton to score the try.

Robinson, the subject of vile social media abuse earlier this week, showed why she is a superstar.

In a scary moment for Newcastle, Hannah Southwell fell awkwardly, clutching her knee 10 metres from the Brisbane line. The lock tried to continue but had to leave the match.

A short time later, Newcastle extended its lead to 10-4 with its second try. After creating an overlap, winger Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly found space on the right side to score.

Broncos fullback Jaime Chapman created a half-break on the left but ran out of room. The Newcastle defence swarmed in support and forced her over the touchline.

Deep in their defensive end, Jesse Southwell used a set of juke steps to create a linebreak. The Broncos finally chased her down but not before she’d gained over 50 metres.

With the defence in disarray, Romy Teitzel found the ball with space and scored easily. Dibbs converted, making it 16-4, and the Broncos were reeling.

Toward the end of the half, Broncos players Emily Bass and Shenae Ciesiolka were removed from the game for head injury assessment.

Seconds before half-time, the Broncos forced a turnover close to the Knights’ goal line. Tarryn Aiken took full advantage, slicing through the Knights’ defence and grounded the ball despite Upton’s best efforts to hold it up.

Brigginshaw’s conversion after the siren made it 16-10, putting the Broncos within a converted try at the half.

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Broncos’ coach, Kelvin Wright, said he wasn’t happy with the number of mistakes and penalties in the first half. Unfortunately for the team, that trend continued.

A pair of Brisbane penalties afforded the Knights good field position, and Tayla Predebon made the Broncos pay, scoring her first-ever NRLW try.

The conversion made it a 22-10 game in Newcastle’s favour, and the fans could sense an upset.

However, Brisbane showed why it has been the dominant force in NRLW since its inception. The Broncos began finding space behind the ruck and taking advantage through the second phase of play.

The pressure built until Brigginshaw and Robinson connected again, this time aerially. Brigginshaw’s vision and execution set Robinson up perfectly for her second try of the game.

The intensity continued to increase, both teams engaged in post-tackle shenanigans.

Newcastle prop Caitlan Johnston gave the team breathing room as she bulldozed over the line, making it 26-14. The team has changed drastically, but Johnston, the first player ever signed by the Knights, indicated she will likely be a part of any future success.

Johnston’s try went straight to the legs of the Knights’ players, and they looked fresh against a tiring Broncos squad.

Four minutes from full-time, Newcastle put the icing on the cake with Bobbi Law’s strong 20-metre run down the left side to score.

As time expired, the Knights had their first-ever NRLW win, a deserving 32-14 victory. The defence was tested by an experienced Broncos team but was up to the task.

Jesse Southwell credited the forward group for the win, saying the team has the best forward group in the game. After this result, it’s hard to argue with that analysis.

The Knights face the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Broncos will look to get the season back on track against the Roosters at Moreton Daily Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

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