Never be dead.
That’s been Canberra’s mantra this season and they lived by it on Sunday at GIO Stadium, staging one of the NRL’s greatest escapes to beat Newcastle 29-25 in golden point.
A miraculous Jordan Rapana try was the difference and puts his side on the brink of the top four.
Down 22-0 just before halftime, the Raiders looked destined for an unthinkable loss to the competition cellar-dwellers.
But four unanswered tries – including a double to skipper Jarrod Croker – in regular time set them up for a grandstand finish in front of 9,731 fans.
Locked up at 24-all, five-eighth Blake Austin kicked what looked to be the match-winning field goal inside the final 90 seconds.
But Trent Hodkinson replied moments later with a successful attempt of his own after the Knights regained possession from a short kick-off to send the game to golden point.
It’s the second time this season the teams have played beyond the 80 minutes, having drawn 24-24 in round three.
On that occasion there were seven missed attempts at a field goal, but there were only five on Sunday.
The last wayward kick was by Austin, on which Rapana – who earlier jarred his shoulder – somehow pounced to score and seal the victory.
“They’re the little pieces of play that make or break teams,” coach Ricky Stuart said.
“I missed it to be quite honest. After we missed the field goal I think I was abusing somebody. But it was just wonderful to get that feeling.”
Stuart lauded his side’s tenacity in the first half, when Rapana (shoulder), Croker (concussion) and man mountain Shannon Boyd (knee) all came off hurt.
None of the injuries appear to be serious.
“They’re a very, very tough and resilient bunch of players that I’m very fortunate to be coach of,” he said.
“I’ve had media talk to me all week about complacency – it’s not in the joint.”
Croker said the team had been in similar situations before and constantly spoke about “hanging tough”.
“It’s not an ideal situation to be in, but we talk about having pride in the jersey, we talk about never being dead and we showed that today,” he added.
It was the Raiders’ fifth win in the past five games and puts them just one point outside the top four.
For the last-placed Knights it marks their 10th successive loss. They’ll have a much-needed bye next week while the Raiders host North Queensland next Monday.