Newcastle Knights need a last-round miracle to avoid the NRL wooden spoon after 46-28 loss to Canberra.
TRY TIME: Junior Paulo crashes over to score against Newcastle.THE Newcastle Knights will need a last-round miracle to avoid collecting a third straight wooden spoon aftera 46-28loss to Canberra at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
Newcastle’s penultimate-round defeat left them in danger of clinching the spoon a week before their last gameif Wests Tigers had beaten North Queensland at Campbelltown in Friday’s late game.
That scenario appeared likely when the Tigers led 14-6 midway through the second half. But the Cowboys rallied to win 22-14, leaving the Tigers second-last on 16 points, two ahead of cellar dwellers Newcastle.
If the Knights beat premiers Cronulla on Sunday week at McDonald Jones Stadium, and the Warriors beat the Tigers at Leichhardt, the two teams would finish equal on six wins apiece.
But heading into the final round, the Tigers have a superior for-and-against differential of minus-170 points, compared to Newcastle’s minus-212. The Knights would need a 42-point turnaround, which would probably entail beating the Sharks by a large margin and hoping the Tigers lose heavily.
It appears highly unlikely, but Knights fans can at least cling to hope until the last round of 2017. Stranger things have happened in the history of rugby league.
If Newcastle do finish last, they will become only the fifth club to finish bottom in three straight seasons. The last team to do so were Gold Coast Seagulls between 1991 and 1993.
A hat-trick of tries from Canberra winger Jordan Rapana was the highlight of Friday’s victory by the Raiders.
The home teamdominated possession in the early exchanges to post tries by prop Junior Paulo and skipper Jarrod Croker.
Newcastle hit back bravely with tries by winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall and back-rower Jamie Buhrer to reduce the deficit to 14-10, but when Jack Wighton and Rapana scored for Canberra, it was 26-10 at half-time.
Big prop Daniel Saifiti crashed over in the 51stminute to make it 26-16 and give the visitors some hope.
Rapana then raced in back-to-back tries and five-eighth Blake Austin scored his seventh try in seven games against Newcastle.
Knights lock Mitch Barnett, who was put on report for a high tackle on Aidan Sezer, scored against his former club, then Kenny-Dowall grabbed his second try in the 79thminute.
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