Knights lose Ponga to injury in heavy Bulldogs loss, Raiders cough up half time lead
Newcastle sensation Kalyn Ponga has suffered a worrying hamstring injury and is racing the clock to be fit for State of Origin III following the Knights' 36-16 NRL loss to Canterbury.
The Knights fullback limped from Hunter Stadium in just the 14th minute as a gutsy Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak to relieve pressure on the under-siege club.
Just six days after his stunning Queensland debut, Ponga was dragged down awkwardly by debutant Lachlan Lewis and immediately left the field.
On a disastrous evening for the Knights, luckless hooker Slade Griffin also suffered a suspected ACL tear.
The ex-Melbourne journeyman has suffered three ACL ruptures during his career and at one point spent three years out of the NRL.
After moving to Newcastle this year, he appeared to have turned over a new leaf and last weekend made his international debut for New Zealand.
With the Knights reduced to 15 men in the first half, the Dogs ran over the top of the Knights to bring a disastrous month to an end.
The Dogs lost 494 games worth of NRL experience after Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods made mid-season departures and Kieran Foran (foot) and Raymond Faitala-Mariner (knee) suffered season-ending injuries.
Lewis, the nephew of Queensland great Wally Lewis, was solid in his first match while coach Dean Pay also blooded Ofahiki Ogden.
The Knights led 16-12 at the break thanks to a Connor Watson double however the Dogs turned the corner after the break.
Winger Reimis Smith took advantage of a massive overlap to go over, then three minutes later put it on the toe for Jeremy Marshall-King to plant it over the line.
When Nu Brown burrowed over from dummy-half in the 73rd it put the result beyond doubt before skipper Josh Jackson got a deserving try on the bell.
Sea Eagles spring surprise on Panthers
A Nathan Cleary sin-binning has helped Manly consign Penrith to its second straight loss after the premiership contender was shocked 18-10 by the lowly-ranked Sea Eagles.
With scores locked at 10-10 with 15 minutes to play, Cleary was ruled by the NRL's bunker to have held Daly Cherry-Evans off the ball as he chased his own grubber kick close to the line.
The NSW halfback was sent to the bin for the professional foul, Trent Hodkinson then slotting over the penalty goal for Manly to take a 12-10 lead at Panthers Stadium.
Manly then took full advantage five minutes later when Jake Trbojevic spun and provided an offload for Hodkinson to buck Manly's four-game losing streak and put space between it and the bottom of the ladder.
But the win came as a cost for Manly, which lost star centre Dylan Walker to a knee injury when he was carried off the field early in the second half.
Walker will go for scans on Monday, but Sea Eagles officials were hopeful the blow only came through contact and there was no structural damage to his anterior cruciate ligament.
Penrith also lost powerful second-rower Viliame Kikau to a knee injury late, in what was only his return match from a medial ligament strain on the same knee earlier in June.
The loss drops the Panthers back to fourth and behind Melbourne on the ladder, after they'd logged four straight wins before their loss to the Roosters last round.
Raiders cough up half time lead to fast finishing Broncos
Only something special was going to redeem Anthony Milford after the Brisbane pivot's mistake riddled first half against Canberra.
He left it late but Milford produced, slicing through the Raiders defence to score a solo 72nd minute try to help ice Brisbane's vital 26-22 win in front of 30,495 Lang Park fans.
In a Jekyll and Hyde display, Milford appeared to do his chances of being picked as a Queensland utility for July 11's State of Origin game three no favours in a woeful first half.
The stage was set for Milford to fire against his former club and provide a reminder to Maroons selectors with Queensland bench utility Kalyn Ponga (hamstring) in doubt.
Instead Milford couldn't take a trick as Canberra raced to a 16-0 halftime lead.
His dire half was summed up when he tried to bust through the Raiders line, only to grass a pushed pass and let Canberra back-rower Elliott Whitehead waltz 35m to score untouched in just the third minute.
Whatever Wayne Bennett said at halftime worked as Milford came alive in the second stanza.
The five-eighth set up two tries, had a hand in another before his solo brilliance locked up the scores at 22-22.
Classy winger Jamayne Isaako coolly potted over the conversion for Brisbane to take the lead in the dying minutes and sunk a 79th minute penalty for good measure.
It was a crucial win for eighth-placed Brisbane who are now three wins ahead of the Raiders.