NYC Match Report: Heartbreak for young Raiders
The Canberra Raiders have fallen agonisingly short of claiming a win in their final home game of the season going down to the Newcastle Knights 21-20.
The Raiders held the lead from the opening minutes of the game, only falling behind thanks to a Jack Jones field goal in the dying moments of the game.
The Raiders started the game without exciting playmaker Erin Clark who was promoted to Mounties prior to the game. This meant Kalani Going got the ‘C’ next to his name on the team sheet while Timoci Vatubuli moved into the halves in place of Clark
With the Raiders already preparing for next season the match held extra significance for the ninth placed Knights who needed a win to stay in touch with the top eight and keep their finals hopes alive.
But it was the Raiders who drew first blood finding the try line after just six minutes of play.
A pin-point cross field kick from Derek Hay fell into the hands of winger Harry Van Dartel who regathered the ball mid-air before slamming the ball down for the first points of the match. Andre Niko continued his hot form with the boot and put the Knights at an early six-point deficit.
Shortly after the Raiders found themselves on the attack and opted for the aerial route once again.
Great kick pressure from Mikaele Ravalawa put Knights full back Matt Cooper in two minds before Jacob Field pounced on the ball and fought his way into the in-goal for the Raiders second.
Following Niko‘s successful conversion the Knights began to slowly chip away at the Raiders defence as the match fell into an arm wrestle.
With less than 20 minutes remaining in the first half the Knights finally worked their way into Raiders territory and made the most of their time down the southern end of the field.
Repeated sets and a slick backline play was too good for the Raiders defence as the Knights crashed over in the corner for their first of the day. The conversion was successful to make it a 12-6 ball game.
With the halftime siren looming, the Raiders had one last chance to draw blood in the first half.
Some quick passing through the hands was enough to give Ravalawa some space and the union convert muscled his way over his second of the day.
Niko was unable to add the extras as the Raiders went into the sheds holding onto a slim 16-6 advantage.
As the kick-off rocketed into the air as the game got back underway, the Knights started with plenty of enthusiasm to get themselves back into the game.
The extra spring in the step paid off as they ran in two tries in three minutes to tie the game and swing the odds back in their favour.
Both tries came down the edges with centre Heath Gibbs and winger Mitch Andrews doing the damage for the Knights.
With the scores tied at 16-all and with 20 minutes still yet to play Brett Whites men knew the game was in the balance.
And in the 58th
minutes Sebastian Kris showed why he has been one of the Raiders best all season as he barges his way over in the corner to once again put the Raiders nose in front.
Chasing a slim 20-16 lead the Knights started to pull out the trick book in an attempt to find a way around the brick wall defence of the Raiders.
With five minutes remaining a classy line break from Cooper set up winger Kainoa Gudgeon who crashed over on the sideline to tie the game.
The sideline conversion sailed wide of the post keeping the scores at 20-apiece to set up a grandstand finish.
Field goals, no tries and adlib play made for a frantic finish to the match as the Knights peppered the Raiders line with everything they had desperately trying to find a way to break the deadlock.
But after two charge downs, the Knights finally got a field goal attempt off the ground as Jack Johns guided the ball through the posts to keep their season alive and steal a win off the Raiders.
The Raiders now prepare for their clash with the Melbourne Storm next week.