Knights beat Tigers in Tamworth thriller
Decked out in their NSW mining high-vis replica jerseys, the nib Newcastle Knights claimed an exciting 22-20 win over the Wests Tigers at Scully Park in Tamworth on Saturday evening.
Kalyn Ponga proved a handful for the Tigers in the first half to see the Knights take a 10-nil into the break, but the Tigers came back with a vengeance to hit the lead soon after the break.
But it was a brilliant kick by Jamie Buhrer in his 150th game that guided the red and blues to a two-point victory.
Two early penalties placed the Knights within 10 metres of the try line before Ponga took the kick, but it rebounded off the goal post to land in Tigers hands.
Shortly after Mitch Barnett flew over the line, but he was held up and the Knights couldn't convert their possession points.
Ponga showed some impressive speed to scoop it up in-goal and get out of danger with a 30-metre run, as the Knights continued to show positive signs and showcase some hard hitting in defence.
A short kick by Ponga in Knights territory forced the Tigers to scramble in-goal but Newcastle pegged them back to force a goal line drop out.
In the 21st minute Ponga was again in the play, he pulled off a cut-out pass out wide to winger Ken Sio, who gathered it nicely to dive over for the first points of the evening. The young fullback couldn't convert, and the Knights took the lead, 4-0.
There was almost a chance for Lachlan Fitzgibbon's fifth try this season, but there was too much heat on a Mitchell Pearce pass and the forward couldn't control it.
The Tigers turned on some tight defence to force two goal line drop-outs, but soon after five-eighth Benji Marshall was escorted from the field with a HIA, leaving Luke Brooks to steer the ship for the Tigers.
Vulnerability in the Tigers middle allowed a speedy Pearce to slip through the gap and run past four defenders to crash over for the Knights second in the 34th minute. No trouble this time for Ponga who nailed the kick to see the Knights lead 10-0.
A minute before halftime, Ponga swatted away a clever grubber in Tigers territory and that chewed up some time before the siren. The Knights led 10-0 into the break.
In the second, the tigers turned it on as a Brooks pass landed perfectly with Michael Chee Kam who evaded defence to stride it to the line. Esan Marsters added the extras to close the gap, 10-6.
A mistake came from the Knights as Shaun Kenny-Dowall couldn't pull in the high ball and Kevin Naiqama picked up the crumbs to add back-to-back tries. Marsters didn't miss from in-front to see the Tigers take the lead, 12-10.
The Tigers were running hot, as a precision chip kick found Corey Thompson who ran it across the line 48 minutes in, before another successful conversion from Marsters extended the Tigers lead, 18-10.
From the right edge to the left, Fitzgibbon had a hand in the next try with a barrelling pass to Sio out wide who dived over for the double in the 59th minute. Ponga unable to convert with the Tigers still in-front 18-14.
On the fifth tackle the Knights gave away a penalty 15 metres out from the posts and Marsters had no difficulty as he booted the two points to put them a converted try out in front.
In the exact same play in the first half, Fitzgibbon charged over the line, but it was again held up before another great pass out wide to Sio who crossed over for his first career hat trick. Ponga again no luck on the kick as the Knights trailed 20-18.
And with Pearce off with a HIA, Jamie Buhrer moved into halfback and landed a match winning kick to Kenny-Dowall who took a leaping catch to ground the ball in goal and secure a thrilling two-point win against the Tigers, 22-20.
Knights 22 (T: Sio 3, Pearce, Kenny-Dowall G: Ponga 1/4, Sio 0/1, PG: Ponga 0/1)
Tigers 20 (T: Chee Kam, Naiqama, Thompson G: Marsters 3/3, PG: Marsters 1/1)