Less than six months on from finishing dead last in the 2021 season, the Knights will head into the NRLW finals as the second-ranked team after beating the Dragons 30-8 on Sunday.
The Knights scored three tries in each half and held St George Illawarra scoreless in the second half to record their biggest ever win in the NRLW, with teenage halfback Jesse Southwell and front-rower Caitlin Johnston standing out.
Southwell controlled the game well and set up two tries, while Johnston dominated the middle of the park and ran for 194 metres.
The result changes little in regards to next week though, with the two sides now to meet again in a must-win finals match.
Johnston powers in
Knowing they couldn't climb higher than second, or fall lower than third, Dragons coach Jamie Soward opted to sit a number of players out of the clash, and while his side scored first and went try-for-try with Newcastle in the early exchanges, the Knights led 14-8 at the break thanks to tries from Olivia Higgins, Kiana Takairangi and debutante Jessica Gentle.
Emmanita Paki and Emma Manzelmann added further four-pointers to stretch the scoreline out, before Makenzie Weale added a sixth try five minutes from time to ensure the Knights picked up their fourth win of the season.
Takairangi takes everyone on
- Knights prop Caitlin Johnston ran for 194 metres off 16 carries in the win.
- The Dragons still completed 80 percent of their sets despite the heavy loss.
- Reigning Dally M Medal winner Emma Tonegato provided the final touch for the opening try, with quick hands sending Taliah Fuimaono for her first NRLW try.
- Olivia Higgins got Newcastle back even on 15 minutes.
- Teagan Berry continued the free-flowing nature of the game with another on 20 minutes, before Kiana Takairangi powered through several would-be tacklers to make it 8-8.
- Jess Gentle scored a memorable try on debut just before the break, with Jesse Southwell nailing the ensuing conversion from out wide to send the Knights into the sheds up 14-8.
- Emmanita Paki and Emma Manzelmann added further four-pointers for Newcastle to give them a 24-8 heading into the final 15 minutes.
- Makenzie Weale crossed five minutes from time to
Play of the game
A classy finish from Jessica Gentle on NRL debut. The winger showed good presence to head back in field after grabbing a looping pass, powering through two would-be tacklers to score.
Anything but Gentle
What they said
"At stages there we probably just didn't aim up defensively. In saying that, the club has reached another semi-final and if you had have said we were going to make two semi-finals in my first year being a coach, I am really proud of that with the girls. It's always hard to prepare for these games knowing [a] semi-final berth is already there." - Dragons coach Jamie Soward.
"We kept turning up for each other, and I think above all else, that's us. We have made a real decisive decision from day one that we want to play the Newcastle way and we've done that." - Knights coach Ronald Griffiths.
NRLW Press Conference: Dragons v Knights - Round 5, 2022
It's all on again next week when these two sides meet in the opening round of the finals, with the Dragons looking to qualify for their second-straight Grand Final and the Knights attempting to do it for the first time in their history.