Newcastle, Canterbury in NRL trial draw

George Clarke |

Newcastle and Canterbury’s frontline NRL stars have emerged unscathed from a gritty NRL trial game which ended in a 16-16 draw at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The Knights barely missed a beat without injured hooker Jayden Brailey and departed halfback Mitchell Pearce as they took an early lead. 

Jake Clifford and Jirah Momoisea crossed in the opening 15 minutes after some meagre Bulldogs defending, while Kurt Mann was impressive as he slotted in at lock.

Canterbury began terribly with Jake Averillo dropping the ball off the kick off and it was only when Newcastle began to make changes that Trent Barrett’s side were able to string together a coherent attack.

Their two first-half tries came via the brilliance of Matt Dufty, the first an assist for Jayden Okunbor and then a solo effort for the former St George Illawarra fullback.

The Bulldogs rested new recruits Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton while Jack Hetherington was absent for the birth of his first child.

All things considered, this was close to three-quarters of the likely side that Canterbury will put out in round one and there wasn’t a great deal of positivity from the opening stages.

Tevita Pangai Jr was forced into kicking at the end of one set and rarely got time to motor while centre Paul Alamoti, who was being touted to feature for the Dogs in round one, had a torrid evening opposite Dane Gagai.

Bulldogs forward Corey Waddell was placed on report for high contact.

Dufty was the one shining light in an otherwise underwhelming Bulldogs performance.

For Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien there would have been relief that his side got through this game unscathed.

Newly appointed captain Kalyn Ponga wore a nasty shot in the first half while Daniel Saifiti, Tyson Frizell and David Klemmer all got a valuable tune-up.

English winger Dominic Young scored on the stroke of half-time, with Reece Hoffman hitting back for the Dogs in the second stanza.

“I was pretty happy with the first half,” Ponga said. “We gave them the ball and they scored against the run of play. 

“Other than that we controlled the footy quite well and it felt quite comfortable.”