By Matt Buxton (NSWRL.com.au)
The Illawarra Cutters were 48-4 winners over the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle on Sunday.
Adam Quinlan was rewarded for a fantastic match and his two tries with the Fox Sports Man of the Match award, while halfback Drew Hutchison was constantly around the ball and put in an impressive 80-minutes in.
The match started with an incredibly quick pace, resulting in obvious signs of fatigue on display in the later stages, which could be the reason for the floodgates opening for the Cutters.
The Knights put their only try of the game on the board before the Cutters could record a point, through a strong effort from Pauli Pauli to power over from dummy half.
Quinlan replied almost immediately with a beautiful face ball to Levi Dodd, who athletically dived into the corner and skilfully planted the ball down with one hand. Neither kicker converted their respective try, so the score remained 4-all.
Shannon Wakeman - fresh off a solid performance in the Intrust Super Premiership Residents NSW match – received a nice ball from Sam Coster to spin through a tackle and force his way over the line to take the lead for the first time in the match.
Knights’ centre James Elias went down with a horrifying knee injury just before the 20-minute mark, having to be assisted from the field after showing visible signs of pain and discomfort.
A set play on the first tackle for the Knights went horribly wrong, as the Cutters went onto the counter-attack and ran away with a grounded ball, before Jacob Host, alike Wakeman before, spun out of a tackle and powered his way over to score.
After some relentless Knights defence, which saw four consecutive ruck penalties, Sam Coster out-muscled five defenders off the back of some second-phase play to increase their lead to 22-4 just before half-time.
The Cutters did not settle for that lead, throwing the ball around like the Harlem Globetrotters after the halftime siren, with some ridiculous offloads that have to be seen to be believed.
It did not eventuate into a try, however, and the Cutters went into the sheds 22-4.
Michael Steele was knocked out in a tackle and came off the field just after half time, and of the ensuing play when time was called back on, the Knights let in a soft try when Quinlan hit a hole off a Hutchison inside ball.
Just three minutes later, a perfect right-to-left shift created an overlap, allowed Mitch Porter to go over untouched, increasing the Cutters’ lead to 30-4.
There was some huge concern for Damien Sironen, who was on the wrong side of an ugly collision in a tackle, and had to be stretchered off.
It seemed to be a neck injury, and the trainers rightfully took their time to take him off the field.
A great Cutters try followed, when Taane Milne threw a fantastic offload to Mitch Porter with one hand on his opposition defender, who got the ball to a flying Quinlan to charge for the line for his second of the day.
Milne did it all himself on the hour mark when he broke out of a Bradie Smith tackle and crash over to take the Cutters past 40-points.
Kurt Mann evaded an inspired Smith chase to score the final try of the match, meaning the dominant Cutters completed the match as 48-4 victors.
Illawarra Cutters 48. Tries: Quinlan (2), Mann (2), Dodd, Milne, Wakeman, Coster, Porter. Goals: Nona (6/9).
Newcastle Knights 4. Tries: Stone. Goals: Stone (0/1).