They didn't get the win, but the Newcastle Knights NYC team maintained their unbeaten start to the 2014 season with a hard fought 34-all draw against the Brisbane Broncos at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
In a highly entertaining match, the Knights showcased enormous courage to fight back from a 24-6 deficit midway through the first half to share the competition points.
The men in red and blue had chances to win the match in the dying stages, but opted to take a penalty goal via winger Bryce Donovan to lock the scores with five minutes remaining.
Fullback Jacob Gagai performed well filling in for NRL debutant Jake Mamo, while centre Sione Mata'utia and forward Joe Tapine both excelled.
The Knights take on the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in Sydney next Saturday.
Newcastle made several positional changes prior to kick-off.
Jacob Gagai was named at fullback in the 19 jumper, replacing Jake Mamo who is set to make his NRL debut against Brisbane.
Prop Tuiala Togiatasi started in the front-row with Jah Pakau not playing due to a knee injury.
Joe Boyce was elevated to the starting lock position in the 23 jumper, while Lachlan Fitzgibbon dropped back to a four-man bench.
Brisbane looked sharp from the onset and opened the scoring after just four minutes via hooker Jayden Berrell.
Five-eighth Jayden Nikorima converted to give the Broncos an early 6-0 lead.
Newcastle had a great chance to respond after 10 minutes, but couldn’t break a determined Brisbane defensive line.
The Knights remained patient though and were rewarded after 13 minutes when fullback Jacob Gagai barged over with a determined run.
Winger Bryce Donovan converted to level the scores at 6-all with 25 minutes remaining in the first half.
Brisbane was playing with plenty of energy though and took control of the match with three tries in the space of just 15 minutes.
Nikorima scored two tries, while centre Jack Tuttle also crossed to give the Broncos a commanding 24-6 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
Newcastle hit back in the dying stages of the half via halfback Jaelen Feeney and a brilliant try in the western corner from Donovan.
The goal-kicking winger converted his own try from the sideline to reduce the Broncos’ lead to just 24-16 at the break.
Brisbane had the perfect start to the second half when five-eighth Jayden Nikorima crossed for his third try with a strong solo effort.
Nikorima converted to give the Broncos a comfortable 30-16 advantage with 27 minutes remaining in the match.
Newcastle refused to give in though and responded with a try to back-rower Joe Tapine.
Donovan added the extras to keep the Knights in the match trailing 30-24 with 25 minutes left on the clock.
Former Bronco Harry Pondekas scored a strong try in the western corner, but Brisbane still lead 30-28 with 13 minutes left after Donovan missed the conversion from the sideline.
Newcastle hit the lead for the first time in the match with just 10 minutes remaining when centre Sione Mata'utia scored.
Donovan missed the kick, but the home side had a slender two point advantage.
This lead was swiftly taken away when Brisbane winger Tom Opacic dived on a perfectly placed kick to score.
The Knights levelled the scores at 34-all via a penalty goal to Donovan with just five minutes left on the clock.
Newcastle Knights 34 (T: Gagai, Feeney, Donovan, Tapine, Pondekas, Mata’utia, G: Donovan 4/6, P: Donovan 1/1)
Brisbane Broncos 34 (T: Nikorima 3, Berrell, Tuttle, Opacic, G: Nikorama 5/6)
Knights: Gagai, Donovan, Mata’utia, Peni, Birch, Keenan, Feeney, Togiatasi, Levi, Yates, Tapine, Pondekas, Boyce. Bench: Fitzgibbon, Smith, Petterson-Robati, De Saxe.
Broncos: K.Nikorima, Alick, Drew, Tuttle, Opacic, J.Nikorima, Brimson, Rockley, Berrell, Ofahengaue, Adams, Greinke, Arrow. Bench: Lee, Barr, Gee, Fai.