The Newcastle Knights came from behind to draw with the Canberra Raiders 24-24 at Hunter Stadium on an action-packed Saturday evening.
In what was the Club’s first home game of the 2016 season, late inclusion and debutant Cory Denniss starred with a double, 200 match man Jarrod Mullen set up three tries and the side came back from 16 points down.
An early dropped ball from Jarrod Croker gave the Knights some impetus, until a 40-20 from Josh Hodgson allowed the Raiders easy passage up the field to score their first try via Josh Papalii. Croker converted, and two minutes later the Raiders’ other back rower Iosia Soliola scored.
With 19 minutes played Trent Hodkinson came up with a great grubber to earn the Knights a repeat set.
At the end of the following six Hodkinson placed a grubber again, and thanks to a slightly fortuitous bounce he managed to clamp down on the ball in the in goal. The video referee ruled that Robbie Rochow was offside though, and the Raiders escaped to attack again.
12 minutes before half time the green machine was over for its third, winger Jordan Rapana receiving a pass out wide to bolt 20 metres and score.
The Knights finally got their first points less than a minute from half time when milestone man Jarrod Mullen broke the Raiders’ defence open twice in two plays to give Denniss a try on debut. Hodkinson converted from the sideline to make the half time score 16-6.
A penalty ten minutes into the second half saw the Raiders earn more points, Croker signalling for the tee and slotting the conversion from straight in front.
17 minutes from time the Knights got their second try, Tyler Randell spinning out of a tackle to give Sam Mataora a four-pointer beneath the uprights. Hodkinson converted to make the score 18-12.
Two sets later the Knights were over again, Pat Mata’utia weaving through plenty of traffic to grab his second try of the season. Hodkinson again converted to make the scores even, and with 11 minutes left to play it was destined to go down as a tense finish.
It didn’t take long for the Knights to break the deadlock, Mullen throwing a 20 metre cut-out pass for Denniss to score his second try. Hodkinson again converted from the sideline, but with four minutes left on the clock Brenko Lee broke Novocastrian hearts when he crossed over on the right edge.
The game was sent in to golden point when Croker converted and the Raiders had the first chance at breaking the deadlock, Sam William attempting a field goal from 40 metres out.
His attempt sailed wide though, and Hodkinson’s effort soon after took a deflection to give the Raiders another opportunity.
An error in defence gave the Raiders a penalty, with Croker opting to take the penalty goal 50 metres out but it well wide.
Both sides had two more opportunities to break the draw from kicks, but all attempts went just wide. The final score, 24-24, in front on 13,745 at Hunter Stadium.
Newcastle Knights 24 (T: Denniss 2, Mataora, Mata’utia, G: Hodkinson 4/4)
Canberra Raiders 24 (T: Papalii, Soliola, Rapana, Lee, G: Croker 3/4, P: 1/1)