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NRLNewcastle Knights in bitter-sweet 22-20 win over Wests Tigers in Tamworth

It may well be remembered as the most bitter-sweet four minutes of the season for the Newcastle Knights.
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In those desperate final minutes against the Wests Tigers in an absolute thriller at Tamworth on Saturday night, the Knightslost their inspirational leader Mitchell Pearce to serious injury but somehow managed to stay composed to conjure up a dramatic come-from-behind 22-20 victory without him.

The type of win that can shape a season.

Interchange utility Jamie Buhrer and winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall proved to be the unlikely heroes, with Buhrer, playingin his 150thNRL game, finding his rangy winger with a perfectly placed cross-field kick for the match-winner with less than two minutes left.

Kenny-Dowall was one of the Knights’ best with his running game outstanding but an earlysecond half clanger where he spilt a towering bomb to gift the Tigers a try threatened to over-shadow his performance before he more than redeemed himself late.

“We knew if we could mount some pressure down there,we were saying we’ll get them in the last minute and that’s what happened,” Kenny-Dowall said.

‘It was an outstanding kick by JB [Buhrer] to put it on a platter for me and it was really good for me to come away with a try at the end. To come up with a play like that in his 150thwas pretty special.”

Asked had he ever caught a Buhrer kick previously, Kenny-Dowall joked: “Never. I don’t think anyone has.”

The Knights winger wasn’t keen to talk about his error butcoach Nathan Brown said hispositives far out-weighed the negative.

“I’d rather focus on his good points because I thought he was the best player on the field in the first half,”Brown said.

“Sure he came up with a drop but he came up with a winning play at the death so we’ll give Skidsy [Kenny-Dowall] a big tick.”

For his part, Buhrer was happy his spur-of-the-moment kick found its mark after he slotted in for Pearce.

“I reckon maybe when I kicked it, Browny may have been looking to pullsome of his hair out if he had any left but I was confident of making the play otherwise I wouldn’t have kicked it,” he said.

“Kicking to someone like SKD on the wing, you don’t really have to get it too perfect because he can out-leap the best of them.”

The Knights dominated the first half to lead 10-0 at halftimeafter tries to Ken Sio and Pearce but in the space of 10 minutes after the break, found themselves down 18-10 and battling to stay in the contest after conceding three quick tries.

But two further tries to Sio to complete his hat-trick narrowed the gap to 20-18 late in the game before Kenny-Dowall clinched it.

The Knights cause wasn’t aided by a couple of dodgy calls and the fact they missed five of six shots at goal but theyshowed enormous resolve and fighting spirit to find a way to win.

“We led 10-0 at halftime on our merits and at the end of the day, we were five tries to three and we scored some really good tries,” Brown said.

“I thought we certainly deserved the win.”

“I think that’s an area we have struggled in –fighting back when things go against us. They showed a lot of character to be able to grind back into the game and get the win in the last minute.

Brown

“We had that 10 minute period at the start of the second half and that was the period the Tigers dominated but apart from that, we led 10-0 at halftime on our merits and at the end of the day, we were five tries to three and we scored some really good tries.

“I thought we certainly deserved the win.

Pearce:

“You could tell he was very devastated after the game. It was bitter-sweet for him.

“He was really happy we got the win but we’ll have to see what the full extent of it is during the week.

“The show goes on you know. We can’t be sad about that because we’ve still got a lot of the season and we have taken a lot of steps forward and we should be confident of where we are sitting.

Matchwinner: Knights winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall plants the ball over the try-line to win the game for his side after leaping high above Tigers winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to pull down a Jamie Buhrer cross-field bomb. Picture: AAP

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