Debutant’s delight: Armstrong steps up for battered Knights in nail-biting win over Dolphins


There is only one Kalyn Ponga but Newcastle have shown they won’t be shot ducks while their star fullback is out with a long-term foot injury. 

Unheralded debutant David Armstrong dazzled for the Knights in the No.1 jersey at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday as the visitors recorded a much-needed 18-16 victory by holding off a late Dolphins charge. 

The 23-year-old scored the opening try of the match as part of an impressive first outing at NRL level, running for 180 metres, including 127 on kick returns. 

Armstrong scorched across the turf off a Jackson Hastings inside ball to give Dolphins captain Jesse Bromwich no chance of getting his paws on the flying fullback to open the scoring.

And he came up with an acrobatic leap to not only defuse a Dolphins bomb at a crucial stage of the second half but reutrned the ball to near halfway to stall their momentum. 

The Dolphins’ afternoon at Suncorp Stadium grew worse when Bromwich left the field in the second half with a calf injury. The Knights also lost prop Daniel Saifiti to a lower leg injury in the second half. 

Dolphins forward Kenny Bromwich failed his HIA and Knights forward Jed Cartwright was ruled out with an ankle injury, both in the first half.

Newcastle went 10-0 up midway through the first half when Dane Gagai, who has taken over the captaincy with Ponga out for at least two months, took advantage of a poor read in defence by opposing centre Tesi Niu. 

The Dolphins registered their only highlight of the first half when interchange forward Oryn Keeley finished off a right-side raid created by Jake Averillo using his speed to get around Bradman Best. 

Newcastle’s 10-6 half-time lead was nearly a 10-point margin when Armstrong grubbered ahead just before the break but was denied by Trae Fuller’s last-second intervention. 

David Armstrong scores. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

They went 16-6 up eight minutes into the second stanza when Phoenix Crossland cut in between an equally ineffective tackle attempt from Keeley and Kodi Nikorima to gift Tyson Gamble an unmarked run to the stripe. 

Keeley brought the crowd to their feet with a huge swan dive to celebrate his try in the first half but he won’t last long in Wayne Bennett’s team if he drops off tackles on smaller opponents like that one. 

The Dolphins butchered a chance to eat into the deficit midway through the second half when Kurt Donohoe backed up a Euan Aitken break but failed to pass to Nikorima unmarked as the cover defence converged. 

Another chance slipped through their fingers soon afterwards when Averillo won the race to a Fuller grubber but fumbled the put-down in the in-goal area. 

The confidence from David Armstrong on his debut is INSANE. ????

???? Watch #NRLDolpinsKnights on ch.502 or stream on Kayo:

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 28, 2024

A penalty goal gave the Knights breathing room in the 67th minute which turned out to be critical.

With Greg Marzhew cramping up but staying on the field, the Dolphins directed their traffic his way and Jamayne Isaako gave them a glimmer of hope with a try three minutes from full-time.

Isaako again broke clear down the same flank to put Averillo but the normally reliable sharpshooter missed both conversion attempts and after one final fling, the Dolphins’ last attacking set came to nothing and the Knights held on for a well-deserved victory.

Newcastle have improved their season record to 3-5 to remain in touching distance of the top eight while the Dolphins have tumbled out of the top four to sixth at 4-3. 

with AAP

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