The Newcastle Knights consolidated their position within the VB NSW Cup top eight with a thrilling 25-22 win over Wentworthville at Hunter Stadium.
Trailing 22-12 with just a dozen minutes remaining, the Knights snuck home courtesy of two late tries and a Jaelen Fenney field goal.
In a game of high passion that bristled with missed opportunities both sides agonized over bombed tries as numerous chances to score went begging. On numerous occasions, the ball was fumbled over the try line as desperate defence prevailed.
Despite the muscle-bound Magpies having ground its way to a seemingly match-winning advantage late in the game, it was Newcastle who took all their chances in the final quarter hour to win the day.
Wentworthville were first to score in the eighth minute when Lionel O’Mally sent Ben Crooks over in the right corner after the Knights had failed to find touch from a penalty. Newcastle hit back on the quarter hour however when Jake “The Fridge” Finn tore up midfield and from the ensuing play the ball, Jaelen Feeney found Jake Mamo who lunged over next to the posts.
A slick catch-and-pass procession along the Magpies’ back line culminated in Fabian Goodall landing in the corner before the visitors extended their lead eight minutes before the break. Ben Crooks nabbed his second try of the afternoon after quick hands from Cody Nelson, Luke Kelly and Pauli Pauli had put Ryan Morgan away down the right edge; Morgan drawing the fullback to feed Crooks and the Magpies took a 16-6 lead heading into half time.
Wentworthville went close to adding to their advantage early in the second half when Jack Madden was first held up and when Ben Crooks was barrelled into touch as he attempted to find the right corner. Newcastle weathered the early barrage and edged themselves back into the contest in the 58th minute when rangy half Jaelen Feeney hopped, skipped and then struggled his way over after Sam Mataora had squeezed out a valuable pass in the tackle. Wenty’s advantage was cut to 16-12 and the Hunter crowd were beginning to find their voice.
To the dismay of red and blue onlookers, the Magpies looked to have sealed the game in the 65th minute when Ryan Matterson shot away to score after Luke Kelly had split the Knights defence out wide. However when Pat Mata’utia put his brother Chanel into the right corner, the scoreboard sprang back to life. Danny Kerr’s conversion attempt from the sideline ricocheted unkindly off the upright and with eleven minutes to play, Wenty led 22-16.
The game was broken wide open in the 72nd minute with consecutive offloads from Knight’s props Pat Vavai and Sam Mataora enabling Feeney to dart up centre-field before passing to Carlos Tuimavave for the try. Kerr’s conversion levelled scores at 22 all before Feeney’s 76th minute drop goal edged the fast finishing Knights in front for the first time in the match.
A last ditch, razzle-dazzle set from the Magpies had the home crowd shifting nervously as the visitors desperately sought a match-winning try. The fizzing pill however ultimately hit the turf and Newcastle scooped it up to close out a frenetic game.
Newcastle 25 (Jake Mamo, Jaelen Feeney, Chanel Mata’utia, Carlos Tuimavave tries; Danny Kerr 3 goals, Chad Redman goal; Jaelen Feeney field goal ) d. Wentworthville 22 (Ben Crooks 2, Fabian Goodall, Ryan Matterson tries; Luke Kelly 3 goals)