Newcastle steal win at the death over Wests Tigers
Newcastle have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a try in the final minute of the match to Shaun Kenny-Dowall handing the visitors a 22-20 win.
Trailing 10-0 at the break, three tries in six minutes to open the second half paved the way for Wests Tigers to take the lead in the second half before a late Knights resurgence stole back the win.
Kalyn Ponga's wayward kicking kept the hosts in the contest, before Kenny-Dowall's late try ensured it would be the Knights who emerged victorious from a night that wasn't without its fair share of controversy.
Mitchell Barnett went close to putting the Knights on the board early when he crashed over the line after eight minutes, but a superb one-on-one try-saver from Josh Aloiai kept the ball from touching the ground.
Forced to defend their line for an extended period of time, Wests Tigers eventually cracked in the 21st minute when a cut-out from Kalyn Ponga found Ken Sio in space on the right wing.
Ponga was unable to convert for the second time in the match after missing an earlier penalty goal from a much more favourable position, leaving the score at 4-0.
A clever ball from Luke Brooks put Matt Eisenhuth in to the clear and the forward threatened to level the match with a bullocking run, but was eventually dragged down by Ponga just metres from the line.
Struggling to find any ascendency in the half, Wests Tigers' night was made tougher by concussions to key playmakers Jacob Liddle and Benji Marshall, who would miss the remainder of the opening stanza.
What would hurt more, however, was Mitchell Pearce catching out tired defenders in the middle of the field just before the break to race through and extend the Knights' lead to 10-0 at half-time.
With Liddle and Marshall both cleared to return from their concussions, Wests Tigers would begin their comeback as Brooks put Michael Chee Kam over with a no-look short ball on the left edge.
Esan Marsters made no mistake with the conversion from in front, cutting the Knights' lead to 10-6.
Boosted by the wind at their backs, a howler from Shaun Kenny-Dowall off a Marshall bomb would put the home side in front with a second try in as many minutes — Kevin Naiqama the right man at the right time to collect the error and race away from Ponga to score next to the right upright.
Marsters again had no problems converting to give Wests Tigers their first lead of the evening.
A third concussion test for the night saw Wests Tigers lose skipper Elijah Taylor, but off the ensuring penalty, a clever chip from Marshall put Corey Thompson over to take the lead beyond a converted try.
The Knights would refuse to go away, however, and a clever play down the left saw Fitzgibbon combine with his winger to give Sio his second try of the game, although again Ponga was unable to convert.
At the other end, Marsters was content to slot a penalty goal to make it 20-14 with 15 minutes to play.
Ponga's presence on the left would continue to cause havoc for the hosts' right edge defence, and Sio set the match up for a grandstand finish with his third try just nine minutes from full-time.
Once again, Ponga's conversion from out wide was waved away, leaving the score at 20-18.
With the 10,082 crowd at Scully Park in full voice, it was the Knights who ended the match on top, with Jack Cogger's cross-field kick finding Kenny-Dowall with less than two minutes on the clock.
Newcastle Knights 22 (Sio 2, Pearce, Kenny-Dowall tries; Ponga 1/6 goals) def. Wests Tigers 20 (Chee Kam, Naiqama, Thompson tries; Marsters 4/4 goals) at Scully Park, Tamworth