Lachy MacCorquodale reviews the Sunday afternoon clash between the Canberra Raiders and the Newcastle Knights
Canberra Raiders 20
Tries: Nick Cotric (9), Matthew Timoko (16), Xavier Savage (23), Hudson Young (78)
Goals: Jamal Fogarty 2 (25, 79)
Newcastle Knights 18
Tries: Kurt Mann (38), Mat Croker (55), Edrick Lee (65)
Goals: Kalyn Ponga 3 (39, 56, 66)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
It was an important clash for both clubs as they attempted to stay afloat with the other teams hovering at the base of the top eight: and both teams seemed up for the contest early on.
However, it was the Canberra Raiders who made their mark first with an early try to Nick Cotric after a big right-to-left shift from the Raiders on the Knights’ tryline. Joseph Tapine caught the ball on the left edge and fired a spiralling cut-out ball to Cotric who beat both Dominic Young and Dane Gagai to score in the corner.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to strike again as they once again found themselves on the Knights’ tryline. This time the home side shifted the ball right from a central play-the-ball, the ball going through the hands at a quick pace, before Matthew Timoko found himself slightly on the outside of Enari Tuala who failed to make the tackle as Timoko charged over for the second try of the afternoon.
It wasn’t the start the Knights were after, and it wasn’t going to become any better until late in the half. A set restart and an error from Tualia resulted in great field position for the home team, who made it count once again. This time it was an aerial challenge that the Knights failed to stop as fullback Xavier Savage climbed up high to collect a Jamal Fogarty bomb, before bringing the ball down and scoring his side’s third try in the first 23 minutes of the game.
The Knights did their best to give the Raiders more opportunities as their penalty count rose; however, errors plagued both sides for the remainder of the half. It wasn’t until the 38th minute that the Knights were able to score their first four-pointer of the afternoon. The Knights found themselves on the Raiders line with a full set to come, a position which they had rarely been in during the first half. They made it count, as Kalyn Ponga took the ball from dummy-half, drew a few defenders, before passing to a charging Kurt Mann who scored next to the uprights virtually untouched.
HALF-TIME: Canberra Raiders 14 Newcastle Knights 6Embed from Getty Images
After a poor first half, the Knights seemed more prepared to take it to the Raiders, whose own performance worsened as the game progressed.
Despite losing Tyson Frizell at half-time to a concussion, the Knights managed to get into a groove as errors riddled the Raiders early in the half. The crucial error for the home side was when Elliot Whitehead was sent to the sin bin in the 54th minute for a late shot on Ponga.
The Knights immediately scored to bring themselves within of try of the Raiders. It was a brilliant piece of play from Ponga, who dropped a grubber in behind the Raiders’ line, followed by an even better piece of brilliance by Mat Croker to retrieve the bouncing ball from above his head before grounding it for his first try of his NRL career. The Knights were able to take the lead 10 minutes later due to a fantastic combination between Mitch Barnett and Adam Clune which saw Clune burst through the line and then passed it to Edrick Lee to score his first try of the afternoon.
What followed was a frantic final 10 minutes which saw the game swing both ways. Firstly, the Knights had a disallowed try, which was a relief for Savage who had attempted to save a 40/20 attempt from Clune, but it resulted in Lee regathering the ball and scoring untouched, that was until it was deemed that Tuala had knocked the ball on prior the Lee collecting it.
With minutes to go, the Knights nearly went 60 metres to score as Anthony Milford wound back the clock to show off some of his brilliance; however, on the first tackle of the Raiders’ next set, the Knights gave a penalty away, giving the Raiders a kick for touch with just minutes left.
The Raiders made it count after marching towards the Knights’ own end; Ponga was tied up in a tackle on the left edge, which allowed Hudson Young to collect the ball at first receiver and put a grubber in for himself, scoring the match-winning try in the 78th minute, stealing the game from the Knights’ grasp.
Fogarty converted the try to secure the two points for the home side, their seventh win of the season.
FULL-TIME: Canberra Raiders 20 Newcastle Knights 18
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Joseph Tapine (Raiders), 2 pts – Josh Papalii (Raiders), 1 pt – Kalyn Ponga (Knights)
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