The Newcastle Knights were left heartbroken after a dramatic 29-25 extra time loss to the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
While the red and blues led at half time by 16 points, the home side were rampant in the second stanza with three unanswered tries.
It was a very late Trent Hodkinson field goal that took the game to golden point, but in the end the Raiders came away with the win when Jordan Rapana seized upon a wayward field-goal attempt in the 84th minute.
With a raft of late changes for the Knights, Sione Mata’utia was a standout playing in the second row with 142 metres 28 tackles. Robbie Rochow was also sensational playing at prop, racking up 152 metres and 37 tackles.
Seven minutes in there was a scare for the Knights as Joey Leilua busted through the defence to get over the line. The referee called him up for a forward pass in the build up though, and from the following scrum Nathan Ross made a break to get the red and blues on the front foot.
At the end of the set Jack Cogger’s kick bounced into the path of Sione Mata’utia, who arced his run out wide to acrobatically ground the ball in the corner. It was a spectacular try to match that of Ross last week, and Hodkinson was unlucky to have his attempted conversion from the sideline ricochet off the upright.
Several minutes later a penalty to the Knights ten metres out from the home side’s line presented another great opportunity, and it was Korbin Sims that came up with the try. He bounced out of two tackles to get over the chalk near the posts, and Hodkinson converted to push the lead to ten points.
The good times just kept coming for the Knights, as soon after Tyler Randell improvised by volleying a bouncing grubber from Peter Mata’utia for the returning Jake Mamo to get a try.
With 23 minutes played it was Peter Mata’utia that came up with a try, the centre dummying a flick pass to get enough space on the left edge. Hodkinson again converted to make the score 22-0, but soon after he dropped the ball to give the Raiders their first real chance of the game.
A shift out wide saw Jarrod Croker look even odds for a try, but some close attention from Sione Mata’utia resulted in him dropping the ball over the line.
A minute before half time the Novocastrians faced their toughest defensive set yet as a penalty was given away ten metres out. Five-eighth Blake Austin proved too quick when he carried the ball out wide, pulling off a dummy to get over the line.
With the half time score at 22-6, the Knights came back out flying in the second stanza. A knock-on from Joey Leilua in the 43rd minute gave the Knights their next opportunity.
While the red and blues didn’t score in the following set, a penalty saw Hodkinson signal for the tee and kick to extend the Knights’ lead by two more points.
The Raiders hadn’t given up yet though, and five minutes later Brenko Lee made a break down the left side to loop a pass over Mamo for fullback Jack Wighton to score.
Croker converted to reduce the Knights’ lead to 12 points, and several minutes later it looked as though Austin might have scored again when he chased down his own grubber. Video replays showed that the ball had just gone over the line though, and the Knights escaped.
There was no stopping the Green Machine in the 61st minute, as skipper Croker stretched out to score and then converted to make the score 24-18.
With 12 minutes left on the clock it would have been easy for the Knights to panic when the Raiders picked up a penalty 20 metres out from the line.
It was a difference in opinions between Ross and Rapana that saw the home side get the advantage, but the Knights maintained composure in defence in the following set to stop any more points from being scored.
It was a kick from Aidan Sezer that undid the Knights in the 75th minute, Croker leaping highest to get a hold on the ball and score. He added the extras to make it 24-24, and then with a minute left on the clock Austin slotted a field goal to put the Raiders into the lead for the first time in the match.
It wasn’t over yet though, as the Knights collected the ball from their own kick-off and Hodkinson went on to calmly kick a field goal of his own and take it to golden point.
In extra time both Sezer and Cogger had unsuccessful shots at field goal, but in the end it was a try that decided it, Rapana chasing down a kick to break Novocastrian hearts and make the final score 29-25.
Newcastle Knights 25 (T: S Mata’utia, Sims, Mamo, P Mata’utia, G: Hodkinson 3/4, P: 1, FG: 1)
Canberra Raiders 29 (T: Croker 2, Austin, Wighton, Rapana, G: Sezer 1/1, Croker 3/3, FG: Austin)