Knights outlast Raiders in thriller
The Newcastle Knights have continued their perfect start to the 2018 Telstra Premiership, consigning the Canberra Raiders to another close loss in their 30-28 cliffhanger at GIO Stadium.
In a back-and-forth affair, the visitors trailed in possession all game while missing twice as many tackles as their opponents.
But a try to Sione Mata'utia in the 73rd minute consigned the Raiders to another heart-breaking close loss in front of 12,626 fans in Canberra.
Defeat was made worse for Canberra with a serious ankle injury to Joey Leilua and a groin injury to Charlie Gubb.
A penalty gave the Knights their first chance to attack in the game, with Tautau Moga forced back by some desperate Raiders defence in the corner.
The home side soon squandered an excellent scoring chance themselves, when Jordan Rapana put them on the front foot before a short-pass was spilled on the line by Sia Soliola.
Newcastle were down a man when Mitch Barnett was taken from the field in the seventh minute after a nasty head knock and failed to return.
Newcastle opened the scoring in the 11th minute off the back of two penalties, with Aidan Guerra latching onto a short ball to crash over next to the posts.
Match: Raiders vs Knights
Venue: GIO Stadium
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Kalyn Ponga added the extras and the away side jumped out to the early lead.
Siliva Havili injected himself into the game for the Raiders with several darting runs as the home side continued to rumble forward through the middle third of the field.
It led to a well-structured move to the right before a spectacular put-down just inside the corner post from Jordan Rapana.
Captain Jarrod Croker nailed the sideline conversion to level the contest again after 18 minutes.
The Knights were put under massive pressure thanks to two quick penalties, with the Raiders opting to take the easy shot at goal to put their noses in front 8-6.
Shannon Boyd and Soliola continued to provide an excellent platform, bending the Knights' defensive line every time they took the ball forward.
Canberra suffered a massive blow in the 24th minute, with Leilua taken from the field after suffering a serious ankle injury.
A mistake by Nick Cotric coming out of his own half handed the Knights the ideal platform to attack from and they didn't waste it, with Ponga putting Lachlan Fitzgibbon into a gap as the away side took the lead again at 12-8.
Canberra drew level in spectacular fashion when Rapana flew high and batted back a kick to Elliott Whitehead to level scores at 12-all.
Ponga's left boot saw the away side sneak ahead by two before a sensational line-break by Blake Austin led to a penalty, with Croker doing the rest to make it 14-all at the break.
A fast start by the Raiders saw them pressure the Knights line thanks to four successive penalties.
Eventually the Knights' line broke after a sensational off-load by Junior Paulo found Whitehead backing up for his second of the game.
A spilt bomb by Cotric gifted the Knights with the chance to hit back and Moga was awarded the try despite the scrutiny of the Bunker for alleged interference.
Croker bagged his first try of the game after excellent support play on the Raiders' left edge which gave them an eight-point lead before Connor Watson hit back to make it 28-26.
The back-and-forth game took another turn as Sione Mata'utia crashed over out wide to give the Knights a two-point lead they would never relinquish.