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Knights beat defending champions in NRL playoffs

September 22, 2013

SYDNEY (AP) — The Newcastle Knights led by 14 points early in the second half and held on for an 18-16 playoff win over defending champion Melbourne in Australia’s National Rugby League.

The win Saturday advanced the Knights to a preliminary final next Saturday against the Sydney Roosters.

The Knights are coached by Wayne Bennett, who led the Brisbane Broncos to six premierships before switching to St. George Illawarra and coaching the Dragons to an NRL title in 2010.

On Friday, Anthony Watmough scored Manly’s first of four tries in the 14th minute and the Sea Eagles held on for a 24-18 win over Cronulla.

Manly will play South Sydney next Friday in the other preliminary final, with the winner to play the Newcastle-Roosters winner in the Oct. 6 grand final in Sydney.

Bennett has been an NRL coach for 27 years and made the finals 23 times, including his seven premierships.

Newcastle captain Jarrod Mullen, who has been at the Knights since 2005, has never played in a preliminary final.

“This is uncharted waters for these guys,” Bennett said. “They’ve got here because they’ve kept it simple and they’ve kept a focus on what they’ve got to do.

“So if they get ahead of themselves they will blow it all out of the water. It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Melbourne captain Cameron Smith said the Storm lacked intensity.

“We had a team capable of doing something this year but we didn’t play good enough when it mattered,” Smith said. “That’s all it comes down to, really.”

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