By Robert Crosby.
A 74th minute Kiah Cooper try has seen the Newcastle Knights post their third win of 2019 in the Canterbury Cup NSW, outlasting the Wentworthville Magpies 24-20 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
In an entertaining affair between two teams clinging onto places in the top eight, Cooper proved the hero for the home side in a match with several lead changes.
Looking to post back-to-back wins for the first time this season, Wentworthville got off to a perfect start with Ethan Parry capitalising upon a Newcastle error to open the scoring within 90 seconds of play.
Hitting back moments later to level the scores at 6-apiece, Knights fullback Jacob Gagai showed great skill to beat Greg Leleisiauo with speed to touch down in the left corner.
Taking the lead in the 14th minute after withstanding a Magpies attacking raid at the other end, promising playmaker Phoenix Crossland regathered his own grubber close to the line to give the home side a 12-6 advantage.
With both sides keeping the scoreboard attendant busy over the opening quarter, Magpies back-rower Andrew Davey was the next to cross following a quick tap close to the goal line in the 20th minute.
Opting to break the deadlock with eight minutes remaining in the first 40 through a Brad Keighran penalty goal, the Knights took advantage of a 35-metre penalty goal from Mason Lino on halftime to head into the sheds locked at 14-all.
Showing plenty of enthusiasm upon the resumption of play, incumbent Jersey Flegg Player of the Year, Beau Fermor, touched down in the 48th minute for his fourth try of the season to give the Knights an 18-14 lead.
Threatening to retake the lead with 15 minutes to play following a 70-metre Bevan French burst, a rush of blood from Fijian international Salesi Fainga’a let the home side off the hook, only for Davey to bag his second try minutes later to put Wentworthville up 20-18.
Finding touch from the ensuing kick-off, Newcastle winger Cooper bagged the match-winner with a 74th minute sideline touch down to give the Knights a hard-fought 24-20 win.