While the Knights kept the Canberra Raiders scoreless in the second stanza, it was a first half storming the Newcastle Knights were unable to overcome, going down to the opposition 34-28 at a trial match played at Wade Park.
The trial on Saturday evening was hosted in Orange thanks to a partnership with NSW Mining and saw 7,588 converge on Wade Park for an opportunity to witness NRL football in the Central West.
The trial match was a platform for the Knights to test combinations and new positions with Korbin Sims moving to the second row, rookie Brock Lamb slotting into the halves with new recruit Trent Hodkinson and Pat Mata’utia getting a shot in the starting side at the left centre.
It was also a maiden game for the Club for Hodkinson, forward Mickey Paea, David Bhana, Will Pearsall as well as Pauli Pauli, with six of the Knights squad members yet to make their first grade debut.
It was a glut of tries from the Canberra Raiders which made for a difficult fight for the Knights who struggled with a severe lack of possession during the first half.
Yet a gutsy Knights side clawed back in the second stanza to rectify the Raiders hefty lead.
Akuila Uate showed strong form from the beginning of the match with safe hands and a strong carry from kick off.
But the Raiders opened the score in the eighth minute when centre Joey Leilua put Jordan Rapana across in the corner. Jarrod Croker’s kick was waved away to keep the score at 4-0.
Prop Shannon Boyd showed too much strength for the Knights’ defence when he barged over for a try in the 14th minute. This time Croker added the extras lifting the score to 10-0.
A dropped ball from NRL rookie Jaelen Feeney afresh at fullback gifted the Raiders valuable possession, which eventuated in Sisa Waqa diving over for the side’s third try. Croker conversion was successful taking the side’s lead to 16-0.
Just two minutes later, a lucky kick return and quick hands on the right edge saw the Raiders’ Rapana over for his second try with Crocker again adding the extras to make it 22-0.
With the Raiders taking advantage of possession, Josh Papalii slipped through the Knights’ defensive line, this time on the left, to score in the 25th minute. Croker’s conversion extended the Raiders’ lead to 28-0.
A Leilua linebreak saw the centre score the Raiders’ sixth try with Croker’s kick stretching their advantage to 34-0.
Knights fans were given a preview of what’s to come from the Club’s new recruits in the 37th minute when Pauli Pauli popped up a well-timed offload to Trent Hodkinson, who drew his defenders before passing to Feeney who put the Knights’ first points on the board.
Hodkinson added the extras, which saw the Knights head to the sheds trailing 34-6.
It was a positive start to the second half when the Knights spread to the left with a short pass from Hodkinson via Brock Lamb placing Lachlan Fitzgibbon in the perfect position to score the side’s second. Hodkinson nailed the kick, the score 34-12 in the 50th minute.
With the Knights now enjoying a greater share of the ball, strong pressure in attack was beginning to build. Hodkinson then sent a cutout pass to Feeney who directed the ball to Uate to score on the right wing in the 58th minute. Hodkinson’s kick was successful, 34-18.
The momentum was well and truly mounting when Will Pearsall and Feeney combined to direct Chanel Mata’utia over on the left edge. This time Tyler Randell took the kick, but it waved away. The Knights trailed 34-22.
Just minutes later, five-eighth Lamb found a hole and scooted over before converting his own try. The Raiders’ lead was narrowed to 34-28 in the 68th minute.
The Knights were in for a sure try when the side guided play out to the left wing, but a dropped ball saw the opportunity fizzle. The final result saw the Raiders defeat the Knights 34-28.
Newcastle Knights 28 (T: Feeney, Fitzgibbon, Uate, C Mata’utia, Lamb, G: Hodkinson 3/3, Randell 0/1, Lamb 1/1)
Canberra Raiders 34 (T: Rapana 2, Boyd, Waqa, Papalii, Leilua, G: Croker 5/6)
1. Jaelen Feeney, 2. Jake Mamo, 5. Pat Mata'utia, 4. Dane Gagai, 3. Akuila Uate, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson (c), 10. Kade Snowden, 9. Danny Levi, 8. Jack Stockwell, 11. Korbin Sims, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith (c). Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Mickey Paea, 17. Pauli Pauli, 16. Sam Mataora, 18. Jacob Saifiti, 19. Daniel Saifiti, 20. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 7. Will Pearsell, 4. Nathan Ross, 15. Sione Mata'utia, 10. David Bhana, 13. Chanel Mata'utia.