Sloppy Knights let milestone man down as rival No.7 leads Tigers to drought-breaker: 3 Big Hits
The home side made a shocking 18 errors, some of which led directly to Tigers tries as Michael Maguire’s team scored its first win of the year.
Pearce himself played well in his milestone game but a number of teammates let him down.
Here’s the biggest talking points from the Round 3 clash.Round 3
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MATCH CENTRE: Knights vs Tigers live score, updates, video
Ref howler as Tiger saves 40/200:31
BACKLINE STARS BADLY NEEDED BACK
Newcastle has been decimated by injuries early in the season.
On Sunday the notable names missing included Kalyn Ponga, Edrick Lee, Bradman Best, and Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
Young winger Starford To’a was also withdrawn pre-game to add to their woes.
It meant coach Adam O’Brien had to field a rather makeshift backline against the Tigers which had Tex Hoy at fullback, Gehamat Shibasaki on a wing, and his centre was debutant Dom Young.
‘DOESN’T KNOW THE RULE’: Touch judge’s shocker hands Tigers ball
Young performed well in his first NRL game but the other two fill-ins were not so impressive.
oy did score a try and had some decent runs but he made three errors in the first half, one of which handed the opposition points.
Shibasaki had a nightmare in the second half, dropping a ball cold which handed the Tigers the try to put them back in front with minutes on the clock.
“He’s been consistently bad this afternoon,” Greg Alexander said in Fox League commentary.
Later Shibasaki let the ball bounce when the Tigers led with four minutes remaining.
It almost led to another Tigers try and Alexander proclaimed, “Shibasaki’s confidence is shot”.
Coach Adam O’Brien agreed those errors killed the Knights.
“It’s frustrating. It was an important occasion for us. We desperately wanted to make this a memorable day for Mitchell,” O’Brien said.
“Our start to the halves, the start to our sets, the errors... first two weeks we haven’t had any of that and unfortunately tonight we had individuals who had concentration issues.
“That was certainly a big part of it. Our errors on play one, in particular the catching, big part of the game.
“The high-ball catching, certainly, but we’re without Edrick, now To’a, we put a centre (Shibasaki) on a wing... I can’t put Dom Young on a wing on debut.”
Ideally the Knights will have Ponga and Lee back within weeks and they need them desperately to plug the holes in the backline.
CONFIDENCE BUILDER FOR BROOKS
Tigers halfback Luke Brooks has copped his fair share of criticism in the past fortnight after the Tigers went 0-2 to start the year.
But on Sunday he had two try assists and looked largely in control as his side upset the previously unbeaten Knights.
Balmain legend Garry Jack was impressed with the No.7, tweeting, “Luke Brooks... stand tall young man. You have answered your critics in fine form this week”
Brooks had a shocker against the Roosters last week.
A highlight of his Round 3 performance was a superb kick to the right wing to set up an Adam Douihi try in the first half.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire was pleased with how Brooks, and the team, responded to last week’s horror.
“I was really pleased with Brooksy. He had plenty going on around him but Brooksy put that aside and focused on what he needed to do for the team,” Maguire said.
“I was really pleased with the boys earlier in the week, their attitudes to what we had spoken about. I thought that came out in tonight’s game.
“We can be a much-improved team on what we saw out there today, too. The growth within the team is huge.”
TOUCH JUDGE HEAD SCRATCHER
Sideline referees in the NRL often go unnoticed and the official running the stripe at Hunter Stadium on Sunday probably wished she remained unspoken of too.
But a howler in the first half put her in the spotlight and robbed Newcastle of one of its best pieces of attacking play for the day.
Knights hooker Jayden Brailey produced a superb kick from dummy half, aiming for a 40-20.
The ball looked like rolling perfectly into touch, only for young Tigers fullback Daine Laurie to get to it and successfully tap it back in the field of play.
But as Laurie ran from out-of-bounds to collect the ball, he leapt from the wrong side of the sideline and caught the pill, which should have been noticed by the touch judge.
Commentators also noticed the ball had actually hit the paint and therefore should have been handed back to the Knights within their attacking 20 metres.
“He’s come from outside the field of play and touched it,” Andrew Voss roared on Fox League.
“I’m sure he had not returned to the field of play before he touched the ball. I’m convinced.”