Klemmer avoids ban for forearm after Mitchell and Walker masterclass tears Knights to shreds

Latrell Mitchell has not only reinvigorated Cody Walker but given South Sydney a mid-season jolt as they surged to their second straight impressive win with a 40-28 triumph over Newcastle.

Mitchell, in his second game back after two months out with a torn hamstring, and Walker, who is back to peak form after a sluggish first half of the season, orchestrated the victory after rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias was knocked out inside the first 20 seconds.

They have hopped ahead of Brisbane and Parramatta, at the least momentarily before their weekend matches, into fifth spot with a 9-7 record while the Knights remain mired in 12th spot and are little chance of seeing any finals action with just five wins from 16 starts.

Tensions boiled over at the end of the match when Newcastle prop David Klemmer and Bunnies forward Keaon Koloamatangi engaged in a running verbal battle with plenty of push and shove. When Klemmer ironed out Daniel Suluka-Fifita and used his forearm to the head, he was sent off by referee Todd Smith as the final siren sounded.

Klemmer was charged with dangerous contact on Saturday but is not facing suspension and will cop a $1000 fine with an early guilty plea.

“They told me in the sheds he [Klemmer] was sent, and whether that was to calm things down because he had been involved in something earlier, that’s probably more the case,” coach Adam O’Brien said after the match.

“I’ll deal with it when it comes across our desk. He’s already apologised to his team.

“‘Klem’ has a high care factor. He put in close to 70 minutes, he’s frustrated and let his emotions take over.

“He’s frustrated, his emotions take over there; but it’s NRL.”

“It was the best I’ve been involved in in my time at the club, just in terms of character,” a proud Jason Demetriou said of his side’s victory.

“We had 40 per cent of our salary cap missing tonight and nearly 1200 games of NRL experience but no one blinked during the week.

“I have to give the senior players a massive wrap. I thought the performance tonight was outstanding.”

The only blips were reports for both Latrell Mitchell and Tom Burgess, after high tackles in the first half.

However, Demetriou is confident Mitchell won’t have any cause for concern, describing the report as ‘ridiculous’.

“It’s a penalty, I get that, but he’s made a bit of contact trying to wrap the ball up but it’s not a reportable offence. No way,” he said.

The game started with drama when Ilias reeled out of a tackle on Knights forward Mitch Barnett following a head clash with his much-bigger teammate Tevita Tatola.

He then failed his HIA and the Rabbitohs did not replace him in time so they forfeited their free interchange.

The Rabbitohs, missing Origin trio Cameron Murray, Jai Arrow and Damien Cook, drew first blood in the 10th minute when Cody Walker burrowed but the Knights hit back in the 15th minute when Dominic Young scored at the northern end of McDonald Jones Stadium just two plays after Latrell Mitchell nearly put Kodi Nikorima up the other end. 

Newcastle second-rower Tyson Frizell turned the tide with a long break against the run of play before Young beat the scrambled Souths defence to plunge over in the corner.

Fittingly it was Young scoring the try as his brilliant try-saving tackle denied Nikorima.

The hosts hit the front midway through the first half when an Anthony Milford bomb was batted back by Edrick Lee for David Klemmer to pounce for a rare four-pointer and a 10-6 lead.

Newcastle, who were also without the services of a trio of rep stars in Kalyn Ponga, Jacob Saifiti and Dane Gagai, extended their advantage to 10 when Bradman Best touched down after Lee again latched onto a bomb and turned provider for his centre.

The Rabbitohs hit the front when journeyman Richie Kennar touched down twice in the space of four minutes after Walker set him up first via a pass to first-time skipper Mitchell and then with a pin-point kick.

Kennar was a late inclusion on the left wing after Alex Johnston was ruled out with a thigh injury.

They surged to a 24-16 half-time advantage when Walker picked off a Mat Croker pass to run 80 metres under the posts.

Souths made it 22 straight points soon after half-time when Kennar sprinted onto another try laid on a platter for him by Walker to make it a treble in his first NRL since Round 6 last year at Brisbane.

And when Tex Hoy failed to ground a kick in the in-goal area, Tatola was in the right spot to make it 34-16.

Lee snared a deserved four-pointer of his own when halfback Adam Clune looped a long pass to the Dolphins-bound winger to cut the gap to two converted tries midway through the second stanza.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 08: David Klemmer of the Knights is tackled during the round 17 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at McDonald Jones Stadium, on July 08, 2022, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

David Klemmer. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Any hope of a late Knights surge was snuffed out in the 64th minute when Rabbitohs winger Jaxson Paulo skirted around Lee and brushed through a paper-thin Hoy tackle for a 38-22 cushion.

Many of the 18,621 fans were rethinking any plan to head for the exit early when Barnett barged over after a short pass from returning hooker Jayden Brailey, making his first appearance in Knights colours this year after a torn Achilles in the pre-season.

Despite a few close calls, including Best getting over the line but not grounding the ball, the Knights were unable to make any further inroads and the Rabbitohs held on to bank a couple of crucial competition points as the NRL enters the final phase of the regular season after the Origin period.

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