Newcastle has imploded as Canterbury lifted themselves off the bottom of the NRL ladder with a rousing 20-14 come-from-behind win.
A week after upsetting top-four fancies Cronulla, Dean Pay’s side showed real heart as they came from eight-nil down to score 20 points in 14 minutes in the second half at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday for just their fifth win of the season.
Unfortunately for NRL bosses, the match was once again marred by refereeing controversy as confusion reigned in the bunker following Reimis Smith’s decisive try with eight minutes remaining.
After Smith twice juggled a Jack Cogger bomb before landing on the line, referee Matt Cecchin sent the decision upstairs as a no-try.
Following several minutes of replays, senior bunker official Ashley Klein stated the video evidence supported the live on-field decision and ruled a try.
Cecchin had to remind Klein that he believed it was a no-try, before Klein eventually gave the green light to make it 20-8 with minutes on the clock.
The Knights set up a grandstand finish when Dylan Napa dropped it on his own line and Shaun Kenny-Dowall scooted in under the posts.
However, it wasn’t to be for Nathan Brown’s men who have now dropped three of their past four to endanger their top-four hopes.
The Knights’ State of Origin contingent of Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer, Daniel Saifiti and Tim Glasby all backed up two days after NSW’s win in the game-three decider.
But the Knights were sloppy with the game on the line – Sione Mata’utia kicked the ball dead from the kick-off and knocked on at his own 10m line.
While prop James Gavet left his side in the lurch following a moment of madness with the match in the balance when he was sin-binned and put on report for a late hit on Chris Smith.
Nick Meaney’s resulting penalty goal made it 8-8 and gave the visitors all the momentum with 17 minutes remaining.
The Dogs looked rudderless for the first 60 minutes without chief playmaker Kieran Foran (hamstring) before his fill-in Brandon Wakeham – playing in just his second NRL game and first as a starter – took the game by the scruff of the neck.
He took advantage of a terrible Mason Lino defensive read to put Corey Harawira-Naera over to give his side the lead before Montoya scored the match-winner.
Pearce looked on fire early, lofting a beautiful pass that cut out three teammates and landed on the chest of Kenny-Dowall for the first points of the game.
But the Knights lost control of the match after halftime and are likely to find themselves on the edge of the top eight by the end of the weekend.
Pay praised his side’s effort after losing props Sauaso Sue (suspected ACL) and Aiden Tolman (ribs).
“We’ve been building all the time,” Pay said.
“We spoke about putting all our energy into our defence.
Our scramble and our defence and our commitment to keep turning up for each other is getting better and better.”
Brown refused to take issue with Gavet’s sin-binning but noted the Dogs ran in two decisive tries with him off the field.
“We were a bit down on energy, our kicking game was horrible and we probably had them covered still,” Brown said.
“Then they got a try when they went length of the field from our kick. Then they got two when we had 12.
“We just imploded on ourselves. It’s disappointing.”