While they might not have won the game, the Raiders remained undefeated in season 2016 following a 24-all draw against the Knights in Newcastle last Saturday.
Despite their best efforts – and a combined seven field goal attempts during the golden point period – the Raiders and Knights couldn’t be separated across 90 minutes, with the result giving the Raiders two wins and a draw to start their campaign.
Raiders forward Frank-Paul Nuuausala, who recorded 16 tackles and 8 hit-ups in the draw, said the result was encouraging given the Knights’ second half domination.
“It was really good to see the boys stick it out after the Knights had all of the ball and the momentum in the second half,” Nuuausala said.
“I’m proud of how the boys defended, especially in the second half.
“I don’t think we got past halfway in the second half, other than when we scored late.
“It just goes to show the character in the guys that we have here in this team - compared to last year, this is the kind of game we would have lost, but we fought hard and got a point.”
After controlling the match for the first half, the Raiders found themselves behind late, after four straight Knights tries gave the home side a 24-18 lead with ten minutes to play.
But Nuuausala said he knew his teammates would remain in the contest until the very end.
“When they scored late, Crokes (captain Jarrod Croker) just said that we still had a tonne of time and to just back ourselves, and when the opportunity came, we took it."
That opportunity did come, in the form of a late try to Brenko Lee, who was playing his first game for 2016 following the suspension of Joey Leilua.
The try was down to determination and a bit of razzle-dazzle from winger Jordan Rapana, who drew three defenders along the sideline before popping a one-handed basketball pass out for Lee to score.
“We’ve been giving Raps some stick about his hands for the last couple of weeks, so it’s good to see him practicing all week, and it showed on the weekend!” Nuuausala said jokingly.
Another talking point out of the Knights game was English backrower Elliott Whitehead – playing only his third game of NRL – moving to five-eighth to partner Sam Williams following an injury crisis in the halves.
Nuuausala said he thought Whitehead did well playing out of position, especially as he’s still adjusting to playing in the NRL.
“Elliott’s got good skills,” Nuuausala said. “Ricky just told him to play like another backrower instead of playing like a five eighth.
“I thought he did well on the weekend - he knows how to play, he just needs the ball, and as he gets more comfortable playing in the NRL I think that will come out more.
“He just needs to work on his kicking game!”
Looking ahead to this weeks game at GIO Stadium against the Titans, Nuuausala said he was looking forward to the challenge of locking horns with former Raider Dave Shillington and the rest of the Titans impressive forward pack.
“Gold Coast are playing good footy the last couple of weeks, so we’ll need to be on this week and just work hard again,” Nuuausala said.
“It’ll be a good test for us to control Shillo, he’s probably got a point to prove.
“Their forward pack’s the key – I think they played awesome against the Tigers, they’re the ones who got them back into that game.
“If we control them and we win the ruck in the middle, I think we’ll get the two points.”
CLICK HERE to see footage of the Raiders training this week.