Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien could hardly contain his emotions when forward Leo Thompson botched a regulation try during Friday evening’s clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs in Brisbane.
Magic Round got underway with an underwhelming contest between the two struggling clubs, with the second half riddled with unforced errors and sloppy knock-ons — partly due to the wet conditions at Suncorp Stadium.
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But O’Brien’s frustration boiled over in the second half, storming out of the viewing box following an agonising missed try in the 62nd minute.
The Knights were leading 10-6 when halfback Phoenix Crossland retrieved the footy from the back of a ruck 10 metres out and sprinted towards a gap in defence.
Bulldogs fullback Matt Dufty tackled the 21-year-old, who expertly offloaded the Steeden towards teammate Thompson, positioned right in front of the posts with no defenders in his way.
But to the frustration of Knights fans across the country, Thompson dropped the footy and bunglef what should have been his first try in the NRL — O’Brien immediately got up from his chair and walked out of the coach’s box.
“Leo, you’ve missed your chance,” Fox League commentator Andrew Voss cried.
“Adam O’Brien’s gone … he’s done a disappearing trick, he’s disappeared out the back.”
Queensland great Corey Parker continued: “He’s had enough, he’s gone out the box.
“He deserves a try Thompson, he’s been terrific in this second half.
“All he had to do was hold onto it.”
Voss responded: “That is white line fever, folks.
“He could have fallen over.”
Thankfully for O’Brien, Newcastle halfback Adam Clune dived over in the 75th minute to secure the victory and break a seven-game losing streak.
“We needed to win,” O’Brien told reporters in the post-match press conference.
“How it looked, in terms of attack, didn’t matter. I just wanted to see that defensive resolve we showed.
“With our supporters…they can be disappointed in us but they don’t leave us. Hopefully we have made a few of them happier tonight.”
The Knights missed just two tackles in the first half, showcasing their commitment and the fact the Bulldogs threw little at them.
Canterbury had no offloads in the opening stanza, not even from competition’s offload king Tevita Pangai Junior. They were playing it safe, like a team short on confidence and wins.
Matt Burton’s kicking was the only highlight — his towering left-foot bombs and silky grubbers caused rival captain Kalyn Ponga plenty of headaches. It was no surprise Canterbury’s only try came after Burton threaded the needle to perfection for skipper Josh Addo-Carr to swoop.
“It is disappointing,” Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett said after the 16-6 defeat.
“I sound like a broken record at the press conferences. It’s the same every week.”
The Knights will next face the Brisbane Broncos at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday, with kick-off scheduled for 7.50pm AEST.
— with Joel Gould, NCA NewsWire