NRL 2023, Knights v Raiders, NRL Finals, match report, statistics, scores, analysis


NRL 2023, Knights v Raiders, NRL Finals, match report, statistics, scores, analysis

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 Knights win a penalty in front

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.

Tom Starling Try

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. 

Ponga puts the Knights in front

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.

Dominic Young Try

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.

Match Snapshot

  • The game went to extra time, with two periods of five minutes played in their entirety, rather than the golden point rules which apply during the regular season.
  • Raiders centre Jack Wighton was accused of biting by Tyson Gamble and placed on report in the 47th minute.
  • Knights halfback Jackson Hastings didn’t play the second half after suffering a recurrence of the ankle injury he had been battling in previous weeks. 
  • Canberra enjoyed 62 percent possession through the first half and had 107 runs of the ball to Newcastle’s 68.
  • Raiders lock Hohepa Puru failed a HIA after just four minutes and was ruled out of the remainder of the game. 
  • This was the first time these two clubs have met in finals football and the Knights’ first finals win since 2013.
  • Knights winger Greg Marzhew has scored 15 tries in 11 games at McDonald Jones Stadium in 2023.
  • With a double against the Raiders Dominic Young took his season tally to 25.

Play of the Game

The moment that marked the beginning of the end for the Raiders. A lovely hit, spin and offload from Lachlan Fitzgibbon released Kurt Mann, who found his captain looming in support. The Knights scored three more tries in the 15 minutes to get back into the game and, eventually, claim the win. 

Kalyn Ponga Try

What They Said 

“I’m really happy with the fight that we showed. We certainly weren’t at our best tonight in terms of being clinical but our effort was as good as I’ve seen. There was a lot of character in that win, there’s no point me standing in there roasting individuals about completion, that’s not going to help us next week. We’ll dump parts of it but we’ll hang on to the character and effort that we showed.” – Knights coach Adam O’Brien 

“It wasn’t what everybody expected. That’s the Raiders DNA what you saw there tonight, that just showed so many people why we were in the eight. I can’t be any prouder to coach these players led by him (Elliot Whitehead) and Jarrod (Croker). You wouldn’t know that we had two Origin and an international players out…we don’t talk about it we just worry about the next bloke up and I was so proud of those young blokes’ efforts.” – Raiders coach Ricky Stuart 

NRL Press Conference: Knights v Raiders – Finals Week 1, 2023

What’s Next 

The Knights head to Auckland looking to make it 11 on the trot, with the winner of that game against the Warriors advancing to the preliminary finals. For the Raiders their season is over, with the end arriving in cruel fashion at the end of the boot of Kalyn Ponga. 

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