[Photo Credit: NRL]
A Kalyn Ponga penalty goal after 89 minutes of drama and chaos at McDonald Jones Stadium has seen the Knights beat the Raiders 30-28 and continue their remarkable late-season charge into Finals Week Two.
After extra time was required to separate the two sides, who were tied at 28-28 at the end of normal time, it was a Hudson Young penalty for offside which presented Ponga with the chance to kick his side to a 10th straight victory and confirm a showdown with the Warriors in Auckland on Saturday.
It was a finals game without precedent, marred by an allegation of biting made by Tyson Gamble against Jack Wighton, but which will be defined by so much more.
In regular time both sides had enjoyed prolonged periods of dominance that appeared to have put them in the box seat to go on and claim victory and qualification to the next stage of the playoffs.
The Raiders led 16-6 at the end of an opening half which saw them dominate on the back of 62 percent possession, before the Knights ran up 22 points in 15 minutes to establish a 28-16 lead which they held until the 65th minute.
At that point Matt Frawley scored to set up the prospect of a thrilling finish, which became a reality following Tom Starling’s try, converted by Jamal Fogarty, with two to go in regulation time that locked scores at 28-28.
Tyson Frizell came up with what may have been a game-saving charge down on a field goal attempt with single digits left on the clock to force extra time.
The Raiders had all the chances in the first period, which ended in Fogarty driving a low field goal attempt into the approaching Newcastle defence.
When given his own chance minutes later, and with halfback Jackson Hastings off the field after succumbing to injury at half-time, Ponga took his chance and made no mistake.
Earlier the Knights faced a grim exit in front of a crowd of 29,548.
Greg Marzhew had got the scoring going on six minutes, but a James Schiller double, scored either side of a Trey Mooney four-pointer, gave the visitors a 10-point lead at the break which looked to have put them in prime position to advance.
Cue the Newcastle revival, which came minutes after Gamble made an official allegation of biting against Wighton, with the latter placed on report and a fire appearing to be lit under the belly of the Newcastle side from that point on.
Ponga sparked his side with a try on 48 minutes which was followed by Dom Young and Dane Gagai both crossing within two minutes of each other.
A spilled ball then saw Gamble break down field and patiently wait for help to arrive, which unfortunately for Canberra came in the shape of the flying Young, who took it the rest of the way for a try, which after Ponga’s fourth conversion of the day, put them up 28-16.
Just as the contest appeared set to cross a line from which there would be no coming back for them, the Raiders got one back through Frawley, which was converted to make it a one-score game again.
Starling then scored with two to play and the ensuing conversion locked scores again.