A Jordan Rapana try in golden point saw the Canberra Raiders equal the biggest comeback in club history, overcoming a 22-point deficit to clinch a 29-25 win over Newcastle.
The Knights shot out of the blocks early and looked likely to snap a nine-game losing streak, but a spirited fightback got the hosts over the line in a thriller at GIO Stadium this afternoon.
Rapana pounced upon a loose ball after a Blake Austin field goal attempt missed to the right and bounced straight into the arms of the flying winger.
A Blake Austin field goal with sixty-two seconds remaining in regulation time put the Raiders in front, before Trent Hodkinson nailed one of his own inside the final thirty seconds to send the game into golden point.
The clash marked the second time these sides went into golden point this season, after a 24-all draw saw them split the points in Round 3.
Newcastle struck first after Jake Mamo batted a cross-field kick back into the waiting hands of centre-come-backrower Sione Mata’utia, who darted around the pack to score just inside the right-hand touchline. Trent Hodkinson’s conversion attempt collected the woodwork, and the score remained 4-0 in favour of the visitors.
Ill-discipline cost the Raiders dearly as Knights front-rower Korbin Sims barged his way over just moments later to score his side’s second try. Hodkinson made no mistakes with the conversion this time around, pushing his side ten points clear after sixteen minutes.
It didn’t take long for the Knights to make it three tries to zip, as Jake Mamo found himself on the end of a bouncing ball to score off a superb piece of rugby league on the last tackle. Hodkinson slotted the conversion to hand Newcastle a 16-0 lead in the eighteenth minute.
In a bid to get the hosts back in control, Ricky Stuart injected menacing enforcer Junior Paulo into the contest as Shannon Boyd was assisted from the field. The move did little to curb the enthusiasm of the young Knights outfit, who forced a Raiders error off the ensuing set.
Try number four came soon after for the red and blue, and Peter Mata’utia grounded the ball inches away from the corner post to stretch the margin even further. Hodkinson continued his stellar season with the boot to give Newcastle a 22-point lead after 25 minutes.
Errors cruelled the hosts as they threatened to cross the line on multiple occasions late in the first half, before Blake Austin scooted over for Canberra’s opening try on the half-time siren. Aidan Sezer’s conversion cut the deficit to sixteen.
Canberra were faced with the imposing task of equalling the club’s biggest ever comeback when they returned for the second half, and an early Hodkinson penalty goal did nothing to aid Canberra’s cause.
Leading by eighteen points, Hodkinson and halves partner Jack Cogger seemed content to roll the ball into touch at every opportunity, forcing the home side to work their way out of trouble from deep inside their own territory.
It was a tactic that Canberra would come to welcome, after a superb piece of ball movement saw Brenko Lee dash down the left-hand touchline before linking up with Jarrod Croker, who found Jack Wighton flying on his inside to score Canberra’s second try. Croker added the extras to slash the difference to two converted tries.
Canberra were next to score as Croker snatched his second, before the skipper converted his own try to bring the hosts within six points with seventeen minutes left on the clock.
Croker leapt high above the pack to score his second try of the afternoon with less than five minutes remaining to bring the score to 24-22, and had a shot at goal to level the scores. The leading point-scorer in club history made light work of the conversion, and scores were locked at 24-all with four minutes remaining.
The Rapana try secured a vital two competition points for the hosts, who now look forward to Monday night’s clash with the reigning premiers when the North Queensland Cowboys make the trip to GIO Stadium.