Knights back to best with the return of Pearce and Ponga

In a battle of two unbeaten sides, the Newcastle Knights travelled to face the Canberra Raiders at Campbelltown Stadium to see who would go second behind the Eels in the table.

After a dominant first set of the game for the Knights that resulted in a 10-metre attacking scrum, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad dropped a high bomb to gift Newcastle a scrum.

The ball came out the scrum and was shifted left to Kalyn Ponga, who took the ball to the line and popped onto Bradman Best and get through two Raiders defenders to score.

The Knights lead was nearly pulled back on the ten-minute mark as Jack Wighton made a half-break down the left edge and offloaded to Jarrod Croker.

The centre then raced away and with Ponga and Hymel Hunt catching him, he attempted a flick out the back to Bailey Simonsson, but the pass couldn’t reach his teammate.

With five errors inside the opening 20 minutes, the Raiders were struggling to get into the game as the Knights began to win the territory battle.

It got worse for Canberra as well, as Ponga attacked the line and skipped to the outside out Elliott Whitehead and raced away 30 metres to score.

The Raiders did well to hold on until the 32nd minute, and then finally grabbed a try of their own.

George Williams found himself with plenty of time one fifth tackle play, and his kick across the field was perfectly measured for the high-flying Jack Wighton to rise above Enari Tuala and ground the ball as he landed.

Croker converted to narrow the deficit to four points.

With five minutes to go until the half, the game nearly swung back the Knights way after two set restarts they started an attacking set less than 10-metres from the Raiders line.

However, Best was caught on the last after Newcastle chose to run the ball.

With 90 seconds until the break, A fifth tackle kick was knocked backwards by Edrick Lee, gathered by Bradman Best, who kicked towards the posts.

Tuala was the Knights player close to grounding, but Jack Wighton tackled the Knights centre before to was given the opportunity to ground the ball and a penalty try was awarded.

HALF-TIME: Canberra Raiders 6-16 Newcastle Knights

The Knights started the second-half just as well as they started the first, as they spread the ball out wide to Edrick Lee, who managed to stand up in the tackle of Nick Cotric and stretched out to score.

With half an hour still to go, the 16-point deficit that the Raiders faced was certainly catchable.

However, this soon became a 22-point gap as the Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga show continued as they once again linked up to give Best the time needed to hold up Cotric in the defensive line and release Lee to pick up his second of the game.

Canberra struck back immediately, as the battle between Cotric and Lee continued.

Jack Wighton regained the kick-off, and five tackles later, Williams kicked into the corner of Lee and Cotric outjumped his opposite number, landed, twisted and stretched to score a try.

A knock-on from Kurt Mann at the play-the-ball allowed the Raiders to play from an attacking scrum just 15 metres out, and a third try from the Green Machine seemed imminent.

George Williams found himself without many options after standing up in the tackle and offloaded to a flat-footed Josh Papalii. That didn’t stop the big man though as the Canberra prop forward pushed of three separate tackles to hammer his way over the line.

Croker converted both tries to make it 18-28 after just under an hour.

After that quickfire double from the Raiders, the Knights fronted up in defence and managed to keep the home side outside their 20-metre line.

With less than ten minutes remaining, the Knights were holding onto their 10-point lead well.

They were so close to finishing the game off as well, an inside ball from Mann allowed Pearce to make a break through the Raiders defence and releas the ball to Aidan Guerra, who, for all odds, looked to score the match winner.

However, in the wet conditions, all it tools was a finger tip from Curtis Scott in a desperate tackle to knock the ball out of the second-rowers hand.

With two and a half minutes remaining, and without Jack Wighton on the field, the Raiders looked shy in attack and with Elliot Whitehead caught on the last it would be all but game over.

With the home side holding the ball in the final minute, they were not expecting a poor pass from Williams to hit the deck.

This allowed Best to kick the ball ahead, regather and slide under the posts to score.

After the try was scored, the teams had a scuffle under the sticks with Justin Tapine seeming to throw some punches towards David Klemmer, which the referee didn’t seem to notice.

Tex Hoy converted to end the game.

FULL-TIME: Canberra Raiders 18-34 Newcastle Knights


Squads


Cronulla Sharks

Nicoll-Klokstad, Simonsson, Croker, Scott, Cotric, Wighton, Williams, Papalii, Hodgson, Lui, Tapine, Whitehead, Horsburgh

Interchanges: Havili, Guler, Soliola, Rapana

Tries: Wighton, Cotric, Papalii

Goals: Croker (3/3)


Newcastle Knights

Ponga, Lee, Tuala, Best, Hunt, Mann, Pearce, Klemmer, McCullough, D Saifiti, Guerra, Mata’utia, Ese’ese.

Interchanges: Hoy, J. Saifiti, Glasby, Jones

Tries: Best (2), Ponga, Lee (2), PENALTY

Goals: Ponga (4/5), Hoy (1/1)


Referee: A. Klein

Touch Judges: D. Munro, Z. Przeklasa-Adamski

Video Referee: B. Scott


 

Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)

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