Newcastle Knights won the battle of the struggling sides, 24-16 against Canberra Raiders in Wagga Wagga this afternoon.
It was billed as desperation stakes between two struggling sides and it showed in the game tonight. Newcastle scored 24 straight points to overcome a Canberra side rapidly running out of excuses for their fadeouts this season.
The old saying goes it was a game of two halves but this game was dictionary definition of the phrase. Canberra strode out a 16-nil lead and looked ready to go back into the top eight before a Ponga powered comeback helped Newcastle to their first win in three weeks.
Canberra have been accused of coming out dreaming after half-time but being caught from the kick-off from a Ponga kick is another level. Connor Watson sent a nice pass to youngster Phoenix Crossland to make it 16-6.
From there, the Knights just surged back into the contest. Ponga went himself to make it 16-12 then Tyson Frizell became a one-man wrecking crew to put the Knights ahead for the first time on 68 minutes. Captain Jayden Brailey put the stamp on the comeback with his late four-pointer off Ponga for the 24-16 scoreline.
In the first half, the Raiders were in ominous form. Josh Papali'i was striding through the middle and found plenty of space. That allowed George Williams to unfurl some magnificent passes including the opener to Bailey Simonssen to make it 16-nil.
Williams had his kicking boots on tonight. He kicked well in general play alongside his four goals to dominate the first half. Williams has been subject to attention for wanting to return home to his pregnant girlfriend in England but the halfback was dialed in tonight.
Jordan Rapana helped the Raiders to build on their dominant first half. The winger drifted across field for Joseph Tapine to steam onto the ball for the first four-pointer of the game in the 31st minute. It was the perfect antidote after some social media issues post-match last weekend.
That makrs five straight losses for the Raiders. The one-time Premiership contender have fallen in a heap in the last month or so, and it will take a mammoth effort from coach Ricky Stuart to get his side into the top eight again, this season.
For the Knights, it was a welcome relief today. Coach Adam O'Brien has been under the blowtorch and it was dialing up after their torrid first half but the Knights exploited the Raiders second half foibles to into eighth position for now.