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The ball bounces a few times, you shield it from the fast-approaching kick-chasers while willing the wretched thing to bounce dead. But it sits up and hangs for an eternity in front of your face.

You know you should punch it over the dead-ball line and into the crowd and remove any possibility of conceding a try, but that will mean a line drop-kick and defending another set.

You take your chances but now the ball is moving in slow motion and those chasers are bearing down on you and you can hear their footsteps and feel their breath on the back of your neck.

What do you do?

Knights backs Connor Watson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall were faced with that agonising dilemma five minutes before half-time of their game against Penrith at McDonald Jones Stadium last Saturday.

They took the odds to Nathan Cleary’s kick trickling dead, but it did not.

It would not.

Panthers winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak seized on the half-chance, dived past Watson and Kenny-Dowall towards the ball, batted it backwards, and teammate Frank Winterstein planted it down for a try.

Newcastle had led 8-4 but instead went into half-time trailing 10-8.

Penrith went on to win 16-14, thanks largely to that match-turning effort play by Watene-Zelezniak, a late call-up for the injured Josh Mansour.

Panthers never give up the chase

So what were Watson and Kenny-Dowall thinking?

"It was pretty touch-and-go," Kenny-Dowall told reporters in Newcastle earlier this week.

"Credit to Watene-Zelezniak, and he didn't give up on the play. We were hoping that the ball would bounce, and the football gods can do that sometimes.

"The bounce of the ball didn't go our way but credit to him, he didn't give up on the play, and got the try. The bounce of the ball, in the heat of the moment, it's a decision that Connor and I made at that time and unfortunately it went against us in that play."

Would he take the same gamble next time, or eliminate all doubt and force the ball dead?

"I think so, probably after that one, I'd say so. It's better to be safe than sorry," he said.

"It's the difference between a seven-tackle set or knocking the ball dead and those are the decisions you have to weigh up in the heat of the moment, and unfortunately we got it wrong that time."

Watson explained how difficult it was, in a split second, to choose between risk or reward.

Raiders v Knights - Round 3

"After that, I thought if I get in that situation again, I'll just hit it dead, but you've just got to take it as it comes," Watson told reporters.

"Sometimes you get the right read on the ball and sometimes you don't.

"It's hard, because those decisions can turn games. A seven-tackle set can be the biggest momentum swing there is.

"It's just an in the moment sort of thing, and you can feel how games are going and you might be under the pump there and you might try to let it run because you need to get out of your own end.

"I think it's just a game-time decision."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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