PEARCE IN­JURY MAY END SEA­SON

Tam­worth turns up in droves for thriller

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - SCULLY PARK, TAM­WORTH

IN the end it was the un­like­li­est of he­roes.

While Ka­lyn Ponga, Benji Mar­shall and Mitchell Pearce dom­i­nated for the bulk of the game, it was left to Jamie Buhrer and Shaun Kenny-Dowall to com­plete a come-from-be­hind win for New­cas­tle in the fi­nal minute of the game against Wests Tigers yes­ter­day.

The of­ten ma­ligned Ken­nyDowall came through when it mat­tered most — he leapt high above op­po­site Malakai Watene-Zelez­niak to snatch a Buhrer bomb while Pearce was side­lined, with what could be a rup­tured pec­toral mus­cle, in the dy­ing stages.

“I don’t mind hav­ing a kick at train­ing,” Buhrer said. “I’ve got the abil­ity to kick some­times. I was con­fi­dent in mak­ing the play. When you kick it to some­one like SKD (Ken­nyDowall) you don’t have to get it too per­fect. He can out­leap.”

Knights coach Nathan Brown said Kenny-Dowall was the “best player in the first half”. There is lit­tle doubt it was a match the Knights would have lost last year.

But this is a whole dif­fer­ent New­cas­tle team who looked to have blown a 10-0 half-time lead in front of 10,082 peo­ple for the first NRL match at Scully Park.

The Knights scored five tries to three with winger Ken Sio cross­ing three times.

After trail­ing at half-time, the Tigers pro­duced what looked to have been a match­win­ning 10 min­utes when they scored 18 unan­swered points.

Brown said his side were not get­ting the “50/50” calls from the ref­eree.

“We don’t seem to be get- ting these calls,” Brown said. “We’re get­ting quite stiff calls con­sis­tently.

“We have come a long way. We have a bit of be­lief.”

Ponga’s at­tack­ing bril­liance was on dis­play early when he scooped up a Luke Brooks grub­ber only to get out of the in-goal and race 30m. It would not take long for Ponga to again leave his mark.

A catch and cut-out pass by the full­back gifted Sio — who caught op­po­site David No­faluma short — his first try after 21 min­utes, prompt­ing Fox Sports com­men­ta­tor Mark Gas­nier to de­clare Ponga was his “favourite player to watch” and that “he has it all”.

The Knights re­pelled three con­sec­u­tive Tigers sets on their try line and were re­ward- ed when Pearce scored a solo try after slic­ing through the mid­dle of a brit­tle Tigers de­fence.

Pearce’s try came while Mar­shall and hooker Ja­cob Lid­dle were side­lined for head in­jury as­sess­ments — with both re­turn­ing to start the sec­ond half. Tigers back­rower Eli­jah Tay­lor left early in the sec­ond pe­riod and did not re­turn be­cause of con­cus­sion.

“We were a lit­tle bit off the pace in the first half,” Tigers coach Ivan Cleary said.

“Our de­fence wasn’t good enough. They had all the mo­men­tum through the run of the game.

“We had a cou­ple of HIAs and things to key guys.

“We couldn’t quite get it go­ing.”

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