GREATER Northern Tiger Under 18's kept their Laurie Daley Cup hopes with a determined two-point win over Newcastle Maitland Knights at Cessnock Sportsground on Saturday.
The Darryl Rando-coached Tigers won 20-18 in a slogging and at times, see-sawing, fourth round clash and have a big match against Western Rams in Tamworth this Saturday.
"If we win that we're in the semis and have a week off," Darryl Rando said after Saturday's narrow win.
Down 6-nil after seven minutes the Tigers replied to lead 12-6 after a lucky bounce of the ball try for halfback Pichai Dixon and then a Harry Reid special when the livewire hooker dived over from dummy half.
Dixon's try had turned the game when centre Corben Hampstead fielded a Mitch Henderson and then kicked speculatively again. The high kick bounced backwards away from the Knights defenders and straight into the arms of a charging Dixon, who broke a tackle to dive over under the posts.
Reid then capitalised on a Sam Fechner charge that had the tough lock pushed back from over the tryline.
Newcastle Maitland Knights did hit back just before the break for winger Joshua Andrews to dive over out wide and leave it 12-all at the break.
The Tigers grabbed the ascendancy early in the second half after an errant pass was picked up by Dixon for the Aberdeen halfback to scurry back to the blind into some good defence but turn and pop a pass for Luke Smith to slice his way over.
Eight minutes later and centre Corben Hampstead crashed over for a 20-12 lead but the Knights also refused to give in and when replacement edge backrower Harry Hore crossed wide out in the 56th minute the home Division was back in contention.
The last 15 minutes had the two sides slugging it out with neither team able to produce a killer blow and the Tigers came up with some gritty defence.
It was their third win in four games and while they won they have plenty of work to do, said Rando who was still overcoming the loss of "fingernails and hair".
He was never comfortable even though the Tigers had forged a second half lead.
"We made too many mistakes again," he said of a game where Newcastle roared back to within two points for the final quarter of the match.
"We're still struggling to win.
"We've just got to be more consistent and patient."
He said some great pieces and patches of play were negated by some simple errors.
Game ball was handed to Farrer prop Mark Simon.
He was outstanding, carting the ball up strongly al game and defending strongly.
At one stage of the second half he took the first run up from a penalty tap and then another hit up in the same set of set of six!
Fellow prop Jake Clydsdale was also strong along with second rower Luke Smith, who made plenty of metres and scored a good and deserving try.
That try was crucial, coming in the third minute of the second half after halfback Pichai Dixon had picked up a wayward pass and turned it into success with a brilliant offload. That found Luke Smith angling back into the Newcastle defence but being able to force his way over for the crucial try.
When centre Corben Hampstead crashed over in a similar spot eight minutes later it set the Tigers on their winning way and tilt at the semi-finals of the Laurie Daley Cup.
"We train 5.30pm at Farrer this Friday," Darryl Rando reminded his young Tigers of the fifth round clash with Western Rams on John Simpson Oval, Farrer this Saturday.
GREATER NORTHERN TIGERS 20 (Pichai Dixon, Harry Reid, Luke Smith, Corben Hampstead tries, Mitch Henderson 2gls) d NEWCASTLE MAITLAND KNIGHTS 18 (Tyrese Edwards, Joshua Andrews, Harry Hore tries, Liam Browne 3gls)