The Canberra Raiders and Newcastle Knights played out a nerve-wracking 24-24 draw at Hunter Stadium.
The Canberra Raiders impressed in the first half before the Knights fought their way back into contention after the break.
The injury-hit Raiders got off to a flying start with Josh Hodgson proved that his 40-20 effort from last week was no fluke by repeating the trick early in the first half.
The Green Machine didn’t waste the opportunity and Sam Williams’ perfectly weighted grubber for Papalii allowed the second rower to open the scoring.
Three minutes later Elliot Whitehead, who was named at five-eighth before kick-off, sent Soliola over the try line to double the score.
The Knights thought they had a try in the 20th minute when Trent Hodkinson grounded the ball from his own grubber kick. However, it was disallowed after it was ruled that Rochow was offside in the process.
The two Englishman for the Raiders, Hodgson and Whitehead, continued to impress as they combined in the 27th minute to put Jordan Rapana over for a four-pointer in the right-hand corner of the field.
However, Newcastle struck back on the stroke of half-time. In his 200th NRL appearance, Mullen made a line break to give the Knights an opportunity against a scrambling Canberra defence. Moving the ball to the right, debutant Cory Denniss crossed the line for the Knights first points of the match.
Despite this, the Raiders finished the half with a 16-6 lead.
The Knights started the second half brightly and looked to have scored in the 53rd minute. However, the Raiders defence continued to stay strong as they forced Jeremy Smith to drop the ball when he was within inches of the try line.
The Raiders immediately relieved the pressure with a well-placed kick by Sam Williams caused Dane Gagai to knock on while in goal. The Raiders continued to mount pressure on the Knights in the following set, forcing a penalty directly in front of the posts. Captain, Jarrod Croker, opted to take two points and made no mistake from the tee.
There was bad news for the Raiders when Shannon Boyd had to leave the field with suspected concussion the 61st minute. Thankfully, the prop came back onto the field later in the match. With Boyd off the field, Newcastle scored three quick tries.
The first of the three came when Newcastle rake, Randal, offloaded to Sam Mataroa who scored underneath the posts.
Pat Mata’utia scored the second before Denniss bagged his second for the match.
The Raider’s once again showed their character with a try from Brenko Lee five minutes from full time. Raider’s winger Jordan Rapana drew in three defenders before an over the top pass back to the centre gave the Raiders their first points of the half. Faced with another important conversion, Croker slotted the ball between the posts to take the game to golden point.
The golden point period was frenetic as both sides attempted to kick field goals. Sam Williams couldn’t repeat his heroics from last week, missing three attempts. The Knights couldn’t score from their attempts either with two of their three kicks charged down.
Croker also tried to score from a penalty 52 meters away from goal but his effort couldn’t make the distance and the game ended in a stalemate.
Raiders 24( Papalii, Soliola, Rapana, B. Lee Con Croker 3/4 Pen 1/2) drew Knights 24 (Denniss 2, Mataroa, P. Mata’utia Con Hodkinson 4/4)