The Newcastle Knights lost 36-22 to the Canberra Raiders at a cold GIO Stadium on Friday night.
Although the Knights had 61 per cent of possession and an 85 per cent set completion rate, they simply had no answers to the bursts of magic that Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin was able to summon.
The first quarter was forgettable as the Knights let in 24 unanswered points but from there on in they grew in confidence and started to dominate the play. It was the Raiders defence on their own line that in the end decided the game.
Despite the Knights putting in a strong first set it only took the Raiders two minutes to score, Austin finishing off a play that made 60 metres down the right flank.
Five minutes later the home side was over again, this time prop Paul Vaughan offloading twenty metres out for Austin to grab his second.
Austin wasn't done yet though, the five-eighth chasing down a Sam Williams grubber to score his third in the 14th minute. Jarrod Croker nailed all three conversions, making the score 18-0.
The Knights threatened with two repeat sets on the Raiders' line soon after that, but the home side clung on with some desperate defence that eventually saw Dane Gagai taken out of touch.
All of the Knights' efforts in possession were undone in the next set when the Raiders launched themselves up the field with a penalty and Croker latched onto a grubber soon after to score. The Raiders skipper converted his four points into six, extending the score to 24-0.
The Knights finally grabbed their first points in the 30th minute when returning veteran Jeremy Smith exploited some space down the left side to make a run and offload to James McManus, who dived over. Tyrone Roberts' attempted conversion from out wide was off the mark, but six minutes later the red and blues grabbed a repeat set when Edrick Lee was held up in-goal on the back of a Jarrod Mullen grubber.
The Knights' continued to push for more points with the lion's share of possession, but the score remained 24-4 when the half-time siren sounded.
It didn't take the Raiders long to continue their try-scoring heroics in the second half with Josh Papalii taking advantage of a penalty to barrel over the line in the 43rd minute.
Papalii was over for his second seven minutes later, Austin placing a grubber for him to clamp down on. Croker converted both times, but four minutes later Mullen threw a brilliant cut-out ball that looped over three defenders and found the outstretched hands of Akuila Uate.
From there scoring was a formality for the Fijiian, and Roberts converted from near the sideline to push the score to 36-10.
Following their second try the Knights again started to dominate possession and territory, and it paid off in the 67th minute when Kade Snowden found acres of space in the middle of the park to dive over beneath the uprights. With Roberts still limping from a late tackle moments earlier, Kurt Gidley stepped up to the tee and converted.
On the back of a play that went from one sideline to the other Uate grabbed his second try of the night six minutes later. Roberts again did well to kick from the sideline, but four minutes later the full-time siren sounded with the score still 36-22.
Newcastle Knights 22 (T: McManus, Uate 2, Snowden, G: Roberts 3/4)
Canberra Raiders 36 (T: Austin 3, Croker, Papalii 2, G: Croker 6/6)
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