Raiders v Knights: Five key points
Where do you begin with this game? The Canberra Raiders somehow reversed a huge deficit to not only send the game into golden point but win out in a thrilling 29-25 fixture against the Newcastle Knights on Sunday afternoon at GIO Stadium.
Déjà vu thriller
The comparisons between the Knights and Raiders' thrilling 24-all draw in Round 3 and this particular game are frankly scary. In both games, the away team secured big first-half leads before the home side stole a try before half-time – in this game's instance Blake Austin's effort in the 39th minute. The home team then eventually hit the lead before the away team levelled up the scoreline at the death – as seen with Trent Hodkinson's field goal in the final 20 seconds to send the game into golden point at 25-all. The only difference in the end was the scoring play in extra time through Jordan Rapana – which came from a wicked bounce off an atrocious Austin field goal attempt.
"They're the little pieces of play that make or break teams and/or results," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said of Rapana's try post-game.
"I missed the try to be quite honest. After 'Austo' missed the field goal, I was abusing somebody, but it was wonderful in the end to get that feeling. They're a bunch of resilient, tough football players that I'm very fortunate to be coach of."
The Raiders' great escape
It was the equal eighth-biggest comeback in NRL history and the second time they have managed it in little over a year. It's also a sure sign that the Raiders are no pushovers in 2016. Down 22-0 after 38 minutes, the Raiders managed to score 29 of the game's next 32 points to secure their unbelievable four-point victory. With the Knights resigned to the bottom of the NRL Telstra Premiership, Stuart refused to acknowledge that complacency crept into his side's efforts midway through the first half.
"There's no complacency in the joint. If we didn't prepare this week with the professionalism and the themes we did prepare with, we get beaten," Stuart said.
"If you had of seen the body language and the look in their eyes at half-time, you would've been comfortable in knowing that we were still in the fight.
"There was still a lot of fight left in the players but you have to give credit to Newcastle in regards to how they got there."
Newcastle's newest learning curve
For many of the Knights' hoard of youngsters, they haven't seen a lead in first grade not only this season but in their careers. Let alone a whopping 22-0 advantage. Coach Nathan Brown acknowledged at full-time that it was a learning curve their side can turn into a positive. For the meanwhile, Newcastle fell to their tenth-straight loss in the nation's capital with their four tries in a 12-minute first half stint doing them no good in the end.
"Our effort was good meaning we should feel disappointed. We haven't been in a situation where we have led by a bit of a score before and in the second half we probably didn't play the footy that we had," Brown said.
"We played a bit too safe because we're not used to being in that situation which had a negative impact on us in the second half."
Shaun Fensom's return from obscurity
Sure, Fensom's five weeks away from the NRL is a fair reflection of the amazing development of the Raiders' depth this season, but the Canberra faithful couldn't have been happier to see the fan favourite return against the Knights. Fensom's output wasn't what we're used to seeing as he shared the workload in the middle of the paddock with Luke Bateman. Yet it didn't stop him from producing a steely 33 tackles (for one miss).
Ex-Knights duo have the last laugh
They were made to look silly midway through the first half when Peter Mata'utia sliced through them for the Knights to post their early 22-0 lead, but ex-Knights Joey Leilua and Joe Tapine would have the last laugh by game's end. The Raiders and Knights have taken part in somewhat of a player merry-go-round over the past 12 months. Mitchell Barnett joined the Knights a month ago from the Green Machine and not only lost to his former side but was forced from the field for a concussion test when his illegal shot on Aidan Sezer went amiss.