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"Photo: Paul Barkley / Melba Studios "

The Newcastle Knights lost 38-22 to the Canberra Raiders at Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon, conceding three early tries that ultimately proved costly.

Skipper Kurt Gidley was one of the few highlights for the faithful home supporters as he created a brace of tries with some clever kicks.

The Raiders picked up first points on the Knights' right edge when five-eighth Blake Austin rushed through and placed a grubber for Edrick Lee to score. Jarrod Croker added the extras.

The Raiders maintained pressure two minutes later when Dane Gagai was carried out of play from a kick return, but opposite number Jack Wighton dropped the ball ten metres out in the next set.

In the 14th minute referee Grant Atkins awarded the Raiders a penalty 20 metres out when Gidley was caught offside and Croker duly went to the tee to boost the away side's lead by two points.

To make matters worse for the Knights, soon after lock Jack Stockwell was forced from the field with a bicep injury and was unable to return for the remainder of the match.

The Raiders scored in their next set thanks to another penalty, Lee leaping high over Akuila Uate to latch onto a high ball and score his second. Croker's attempted conversion deflected off an upright, leaving his side's lead at 12-0.

The Raiders grabbed their third in the 20th minute when Wighton capitalised on a scrum 30 metres out to score on the right side. Croker made no mistakes with his kick this time, further extending the Raiders' lead.

The Knights finally scored some points of their own six minutes later when Sione Mata'utia played Uate in for a try. Gidley's attempted conversion from the sideline was waved away, leaving the score at 18-4.

In the 30th minute Gidley was in the thick of things again when he placed a perfect grubber for centre Joey Leilua to beat the Raiders defence and score. Gidley made no mistakes with his conversion this time, narrowing the away sides' lead by a further two points.

With only a couple of minutes left in the first half the Raiders grabbed two repeat sets in a row as Tariq Sims was forced to kick the ball dead under pressure and then Beau Scott knocked on a grubber.

The prolonged pressure paid off as Josh Papalii left his markers behind to score on the right side. Croker again converted, pushing the half-time score to 24-10.

The Knights came out in the second half looking rejuvenated, and after a penalty to Tyler Randell the men in red and blue steamrolled up the field to score.

Gidley placed a teasing chip down the right edge, Uate batting it back for Mata'utia to pick up his second try of the season. Gidley put the icing on the cake with a conversion from the sideline, and then two minutes later grabbed his side a repeat set with another kick down the right side that Wighton had to take out of play.

The Knights couldn't seize that opportunity though, and in the 56th minute Austin made them pay when he caught his own kick to run 20 metres and score beneath the uprights.
Austin was over again five minutes later following a dropped ball from Kade Snowden, the pivot throwing a dummy to get past Tariq Sims. Croker again converted, extending the Raiders' lead to 36-16.

Gagai did it all himself in the 63rd minute when he collected an offload from Leilua to make a weaving 35 metre run and score beneath the uprights.

Gidley nailed the conversion, but seven minutes later Austin kicked a 40-20 to again put the Knights on the back foot.

A penalty from the set restart gave the Raiders another easy two points, and then Croker made things even worse for the Knights when he crossed over for a try with only five minutes left to play. He added the extras to his own try, making the final score 44-22.


Newcastle Knights 22 (T: Uate, Leilua, S Mata'utia, Gagai; G: Gidley 3/4)
Canberra Raiders 44 (T: Lee 2, Austin 2, Papalii, Wighton, Croker; G: Croker 6/7 P: 2)