Knights, Raiders play out thrilling draw
The Newcastle Knights and Canberra Raiders have played out a thrilling 24-all draw on a glorious Hunter Stadium Saturday afternoon, with the extra 10 minutes of golden point not enough to separate the sides.
Halfbacks Trent Hodkinson and Sam Williams attempted three field goals each in golden point but were denied each time due to desperate defence, with Jarrod Mullen's own attempt – in his 200th game – waved away on the siren.
Jarrod Croker's 52-metre penalty goal attempt would also fall short in the 84th minute.
The game was turned on its head in the dying stages of the first half thanks to a 40-metre Mullen run in the tackle prior to Newcastle's 39th minute try. After a wild exchange of passes following Mullen's run, the ball ended up in the five-eighth's hands.
Pinning his ears back Mullen flung a desperate offload out to Sione Mata'utia who ensured winger Cory Denniss had something to remember his NRL debut by.
What the Raiders are sure to rue however was Jarrod Croker's decision to opt for a penalty goal in the 57th minute, with the chance to score not enough to convince the skipper.
It proved a relief to Newcastle who cut the scoreline back to six when prop Sam Mataora forced his way between the uprights in the 64th minute, Mullen's dummy-half pass leaving the Raiders defence in all sorts.
Newcastle equalled the ledger in the 69th minute when Mullen and Dane Gagai gave centre Pat Mata'utia enough space to beat three Raiders defenders on his way to scoring his second career try.
Knights winger Denniss managed his second try on debut when Mullen found the young winger unmarked, Croker's best efforts not enough to prevent the 18-year-old from crossing in the 71st minute.
Brenko Lee's 77th minute try proved one of the highlights of the match thanks to an over-the-head offload from Rapana, with Croker ensuring the game would be drawn level at 24-all to send the game into golden point.
Failed field goal attempts from both sides led to Croker's 52-metre penalty goal attempt in the 84th minute – when Sione Mata'utia spear-tackled Josh Papalii – though it fell short to send golden point into its second half.
Hodkinson's three field goal attempts throughout the period were all charged down, with Whitehead's efforts in the 88th minute forcing a Gagai error. But it wasn't enough for Canberra to steal the game at the dying stages.
Newcastle will be surely disappointed with their first half efforts though with an eighth minute Josh Hodgson 40/20 getting the ball rolling for the Raiders, the visitors posting first points two minutes later when Papalii fell on a Williams grubber.
Sia Soliola could've walked through the gaping hole he went through to score in the 13th minute thanks to quick hands from Hodgson and makeshift five-eighth Whitehead in the lead-up.
Midway through the first half Knights co-captain Hodkinson looked to have put Newcastle on the board by scoring from his own grubber, but the bunker had final say when it was deemed an offside Robbie Rochow impeded Jack Wighton on the kick chase.
Newcastle's ill-discipline caught up with them in the 28th minute when Jordan Rapana extended the deficit to 16 thanks again to Whitehead's passing prowess, though Newcastle's comeback effort was enough for the draw. It was the first drawn NRL game since 2013, with Newcastle again involved in an 18-all draw with the Broncos at Hunter Stadium in Round 21 of that season.
Canberra Raiders 24 (Josh Papalii, Sia Soliola, Jordan Rapana, Brenko Lee tries; Jarrod Croker 4 goals) drew with Newcastle Knights 24 (Cory Denniss 2, Sam Mataora, Pat Mata'utia tries; Trent Hodkinson 4 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Half-time: Raiders 16-6. Injuries: Shannon Boyd – Raiders (concussion).