PEARCE INJURY MAY END SEASON
Tamworth turns up in droves for thriller
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.”