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'He hasn't eaten for a few days': Crook Ponga almost inspires Knights to win

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

A piece of individual brilliance from Hudson Young has kept Canberra on course for an NRL finals bid as the Raiders stole a 20-18 win over Newcastle.


As Canberra trailed 18-14 with less than two minutes left, Young kicked and regathered in the in-goal area to score a try that was converted by Jamal Fogarty to keep the Raiders in touch with the top-eight.

It was a heartbreaking moment for Newcastle after skipper Kalyn Ponga battled a stomach illness to inspire the Knights despite being in obvious discomfort.


Knights coach Adam O’Brien revealed Ponga had been laid low for several days leading into the GIO Stadium match.

But the Queensland fullback dug deep and was instrumental in giving the Knights the lead after they fell behind 14-0 after 25 minutes.

Ponga had two try assists and a line break to go with 120 running metres, and despite O’Brien saying his star was “not in a good way”, he is expected to be fine for State of Origin II in Perth next week.


“I could tell it was going to be a real ask for him, but Kalyn being Kalyn, he needed to be out there,” O’Brien told reporters.

“He hasn’t eaten for a few days. He doesn’t get a lot of wraps for his toughness. There’s people that want to get stuck into him a bit but we know what we’ve got with him. I wouldn’t swap him for anything.”

Ponga’s commitment was ultimately overshadowed by Young’s heroics after the Raiders tried their best to throw away a match-winning lead.

Ponga set up Mat Croker to score with 20 minutes left and the Knights led 18-14 soon after when Edrick Lee trampled Xavier Savage and scored in the corner.


Canberra now have a 7-8 record for the season after winning five of their past seven matches.

“Today was ugly,” coach Ricky Stuart said.

“It’s very hard when you keep getting disruptions to your four key positions on the field and it really hurts … but I still think our game is moving in the right direction.

“We made it very, very hard for ourselves, errors, we were lethargic … we’ve been up for every game, but we played lethargic.”

Along with Young, who found 141m to go with his try, they can thank star props Joe Tapine (180m) and Josh Papali’i (185m) for the win, the pair having controlled the middle with dominant displays.

As if Tapine’s outstanding running form wasn’t enough, he added ball-playing to his repertoire with a bullet pass to assist Nick Cotric’s opener, although the winger’s finish did take a spiralling effort.

Errors killed early progress towards a Newcastle comeback. The Knights completed at just 65 per cent in the first half, while conceding crucial penalties when they had field position to let the Raiders off the hook.

“I’m really proud we had a ‘never give in’ sort of attitude,” O’Brien said.

“We showed a lot more of the resilience I reckon we’ve lacked this year.


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