Marcelo Montoya of the Bulldogs scores against the Knights.
Marcelo Montoya of the Bulldogs scores against the Knights. DARREN PATEMAN

Rookie's starring role gives Hasler a new headache

DES Hasler's decision to play three halves in his side was a masterstroke but now he needs to answer this question: what does he do with Moses Mbye?

A concussion to Brad Abbey mid-way through the opening half thrust Matt Frawley into the mix from the bench.

His job was to make an impact and that's exactly what he did.

Frawley was brilliant in the 22-12 win over Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium and while the club's been linked to Cooper Cronk, the answer could be right under Hasler's nose.

Frawley, who has another year to run on his modest second-tier deal, provided the spark and direction the club has so desperately needed for the second week straight.

"He's putting his best foot forward," Hasler said of Frawley.

"He got his chance today... it's a good headache to have."

Earlier in the week, Michael Lichaa declared he wants to stay at the club but he did little to push his case for a new deal.

At times he crabbed across the field, pushed passes and was caught off side.

No doubt the calls for Mbye to move into the hooking role will get louder.

Josh Reynolds, who is also off contract, looked dangerous on several occasions - whether it was putting in a grubber, his support play or taking on the line.

A leg pull from Lichaa on Sione Mata'utia allowed the Knights to post first points off the boot of Trent Hodkinson.

When the Bulldogs started building pressure and space begun to open up, mistakes got the better of them.


Nathan Ross of the Knights is tackled by James Graham and Adam Elliott of the Bulldogs.
Nathan Ross of the Knights is tackled by James Graham and Adam Elliott of the Bulldogs. DARREN PATEMAN

The highlight of the night belonged to Nathan Ross.

With Hodkinson chipping to the wing of the man known as White Lightning, the 28-year-old jumped over the head of Marcelo Montoya, colliding with his opposite number in the process but still securing the try.

Ahead 6-0, they were almost across again when Dane Gagai left Frawley dizzy with his feet before flicking out the back to Ken Sio.

The winger, however, went into touch.

After making his NRL debut for a suspended Mbye last week, Frawley came on with 13 minutes left in the first half to assume the playmaking duties with Mbye moving to the centres.

Gagai continued to cause headaches on the left edge, and when the shift came the right edge stood tough and took Peter Mata'utia into touch to save a try.

Frawley almost put Brett Morris over courtesy of a grubber which had just had a touch too much pepper on it.

With mere seconds left in the first half, a break from Montoya put the Dogs in prime real estate and the visitors scored off the back of some second-phase play which finished with Brett Morris, who replaced a concussed Abbey at fullback, putting Brenko Lee over.

Level 6-6 at the break, it was Frawley who took control.

Breaking through the line, the No.20 slipped past Danny Levi, threw a dummy which suckered Brendan Elliot and secured a solo try.

Leading 10-6, Morris put Mbye into open space and, while he was run down by Elliott, a play later Montoya crossed in the corner.

The Knights thought they'd hit back when Gagai ran a hole off Reynolds but Sione Mata'utia was penalised for pushing Lee off the tackle to assist Gagai in grounding the ball.

With 15 minutes left and the game in the balance, Frawley delivered a perfectly timed 20 metre cut-out pass to Josh Morris to score.

But the home side hit back through Gagai when Brock Lamb took advantage of some broken play.

Hodkinson converted from the sideline to narrow the margin 18-12.

After Hodkinson secured a repeat set, the Bulldogs failed in a short drop out attempt and the Knights skipper almost made them pay, grubbering for Sione Mata'utia, who was ruled to have dropped the ball while trying to ground it.

Reynolds provided the final blow when he created space for Montoya to cross for his second.

"We're very happy with the win," Hasler said.

"And I've got to give this Newcastle side a lot of credit, they're gutsy and they hang in there.

"We probably could have managed it a bit better, particularly in the second half, we just put too much pressure on ourselves with some unwanted errors."

The evening got worse for the Knights with prop Josh Starling leaving the field with five minutes remaining after his head was crunched in an awkward tackle.

The Bulldogs didn't come through the game unscathed with David Klemmer leaving the ground with his foot in a moon boot.

"He's jammed his ankle," Hasler said of Klemmer.

"He'll go for scans (on Saturday)."

News Corp Australia

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