Rookie hooker Chris Randall has broken a record for the most tackles on debut as the Newcastle Knights relied on their freshest faces to save them in a 14-14 draw against Penrith.
- Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson suffered a concussion and an ankle injury respectively in the first seven minutes of the game
- Chris Randall made 71 tackles off the bench, while debutant fullback Tex Hoy and 18-year-old Bradman Best starred in the second half
- Both the Knights and Panthers are unbeaten through three NRL rounds
When halfback Mitchell Pearce was concussed in the fifth minute and utility Connor Watson injured his ankle in the seventh, the Knights looked almost out of it.
That looked definite after Penrith back rower Viliame Kikau rampaged over in the 18th minute and Kurt Capewell touched down soon after, with the Panthers awarded an extra shot at goal due to Knights winger Edrick Lee kicking Capewell in the head as he grounded the ball.
The score was 14-0 with 15 minutes left in the first half to see it balloon out, but the Knights’ defence, led by debutant Randall’s 71 tackles after coming on for Watson, stayed resolute.
They were rewarded with points when prop Daniel Saifiti crashed in under the posts off a deft pass by front-row partner Tim Glasby, whose night had also seemingly ended 20 minutes earlier when he went off for a head injury assessment.
With Randall excelling after being thrust into the action earlier than expected, the Knights started looking to their young outside backs.
Eighteen-year-old centre Bradman Best crossed in the 58th minute and then had the leveller 10 minutes later when Lee tapped a bomb back to him.
It was then down to another debutant, Tex Hoy, to try to add the extras.
Unfortunately the 20-year-old, starting at fullback on debut due to Kalyn Ponga’s suspension, hooked the wide conversion attempt and the teams went to golden point as both teams missed shots at field goal in regulation.
Even after missing a shot of his own, it appeared Hoy had made up for it when, run off the mark for his second attempt, he created an overlap on the left wing, sending Best streaking away.
The teenager had a simple two-on-one situation, with Lee on his outside and only Brian To’o as the last line of defence, but could not find the hands of Lee as his pass sailed behind his winger.
Neither team managed to take advantage of the 10 minutes of extra time as the clock ticked down to the first draw of 2020 and the Knights and Panthers remained unbeaten for the season alongside the table-topping Parramatta Eels and Canberra Raiders.
In the final game of the NRL’s return weekend, Manly took apart the Bulldogs 32-6 to consign them to their third straight loss to start the season.