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Jesse Southwell hurt as Newcastle Knights finish top of NRLW

Newcastle hopes to have halfback Jesse Southwell fit for the NRLW finals series.

Newcastle hopes to have halfback Jesse Southwell fit for the NRLW finals series. Photo: AAP

Newcastle’s maiden minor premiership has come at a cost, with star halfback Jesse Southwell suffering a leg injury in the club’s 28-8 NRLW win over Wests Tigers.

The Knights sealed their status at the league’s comeback specialists on Thursday night at Leichhardt Oval, overcoming a halftime deficit to win for the fourth time this year.

The victory secured the Knights their first minor premiership in either the NRL or NRLW, with Newcastle two wins clear of the second-placed Sydney Roosters early in the final round.

But victory did not come without some concerns for the defending premiers.

Southwell limped from the field in the 22nd minute after sustaining a leg injury when setting up the Knights’ first try for Sheridan Gallagher eight minutes earlier.

The 18-year-old was removed from the field as a precaution.

“She’s good. It just looks like it’s a cork,” coach Ronald Griffiths said.

“She will go for some precautionary scans tomorrow. We’ll see where we go from there.”

Gallagher was also hurt late in the match, limping with a knee injury after cleaning up a ball in her own in-goal.

The Knights winger remained on the ground for several minutes as knee checks were conducted, before medical staff cleared her to continue.

With Southwell off the field, the Knights threatened to lose their way in the first half as Rikeya Horne and Rebecca Pollard scored to give the Tigers an 8-6 lead at the break.

Despite missing star turns Kezie Apps, Sarah Togatuki and Botille Vette-Welsh, the Tigers looked set to pull off an almighty upset.

But just as they did against North Queensland, Brisbane and Canberra in recent weeks, the Knights were able to finish stronger.

The game swung early in the second half when Caitlan Johnston forced an error from the Tigers’ Brooke Talataina.

From the scrum, Tamika Upton put Abigail Roache through a hole to go 60 metres to score. The Tigers were never really back in the match.

Another try came to Roache after a Nita Maynard break, and the centre was in the action again when she made a 70-metre intercept from which Yasmin Clydsdale profited in the 57th minute.

The win means Newcastle will enter next week’s semi-final on a seven-game win streak, with a match against the fourth-placed finisher looming.

The Tigers will end their inaugural season no higher than eighth, after starting with two straight wins before several close defeats followed.

“(Newcastle) were extremely tough tonight. We just didn’t have the football ability to score points in the second half,” coach Brett Kimmorley said.

-AAP

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