NRL: Knights crash to another loss

Jarrod Mullen of the Knights looks on  during his side's NRL match against the Raiders. Photo / Getty Images
Jarrod Mullen of the Knights looks on during his side's NRL match against the Raiders. Photo / Getty Images

Wayne Bennett's season of misery continued on Saturday night when Newcastle meekly fell to a 32-16 defeat to Canberra at Hunter Stadium.

The upset, which leaves Newcastle just two points off last place and on a five-game losing streak, resulted in them being booed off the field by a disappointed crowd after losing to a team which had to deny rumours their coach David Furner was facing the sack earlier this week.

Both sides entered the match in horrible form and with coaches under immense pressure.

Canberra had lost five of their past six, including an incredible 40-0 loss to Wests Tigers at home last round, while Newcastle had conceded 50 points in their last start at Brisbane.

But it was the Raiders who shot out of the blocks, makeshift five-eighth Josh Dugan setting up tries to Edrick Lee and Joel Thompson in the opening ten minutes to open up a 12-0 lead.

A penalty goal to Jarrod Croker, who kicked six from six, extended the lead to 14 before the Knights were sparked into action.

Mid-season buys Dane Gagai, sacked by Brisbane earlier this year, and Willie Mason, without a club until thrown a lifeline by the Knights, both crossed to pull the home team within eight at halftime.

Mason has been a rare bright spot in Newcastle's awful form, and his try before the break drew a small cheer from the crowd but they never looked like reeling in the Raiders, even when given a glut of possession early in the second half thanks to some sloppy Canberra handling.

In the end it was a fortuitous penalty which gifted the Knights their best opportunity, and they made the most of it - James McManus scoring out wide to reduce the deficit to just four.

But a comical play-the-ball error from Kade Snowden soon after the kickoff led to a Trevor Thurling try with just over 15 minutes to play, while Lee sprinted 70 metres to ice the game with his second try five minutes from time.

Raiders coach Furner said his overwhelming feeling after the match was not one of relief - but of pride at how his squad had bounced back from their humiliating loss to the Tigers.

"I believe in what the players can achieve," Furner said.

"... As a coach, it's more just being proud of how they responded."

The win comes at the perfect time for the Raiders who have the bye next week, moving them to 14 competition points - or just two behind the current top eight.

It is a different story for the Knights, with Bennett admitting he wasn't sure how to take the loss which appeared to erode any improvements seen by the Knights this season.

"I don't know whether we're going backwards or forwards right now," he said.

"We're not going anywhere to be honest with you.

"There's not much to take out of (these losses) except what we all know.

"If you keep making unforced errors you're going to keep yourself under a lot of pressure and we're not defending it real well at the moment either, so it's all compounding."

Raiders winger Dimitri Pelo was placed on report for making contact with his forearm into a Newcastle player in the final tackle of the match.

- AAP

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