Three tries in an amazing final five minutes has seen City snatch a thrilling 26-all draw with Country at Caltex Stadium in Dubbo today.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels Centre Will Hopoate scored with less than five seconds remaining on the clock to allow Adam Reynolds to kick the match levelling conversion in one of the best ever finishes to a Country v City fixture.
Entering the match as underdogs, it was Country who opened the scoring in the 10th minute with Captain Beau Scott freeing his arms to allow David Mead to score beside the posts for an early 6-0 lead.
Not to be outdone by his opposing fullback, City custodian Matt Moylan produced a piece of magic when he latched onto an Andew Fifita offload and exploded into open space before executing a perfectly weighted kick for Josh Reynolds to score a brilliant team try.
City stole the lead moments later when Adam Reynolds showed off his kicking skills to find a flying Daniel Tupou to touch down and lead 10-6 after 25 minutes.
Kevin Gordon was the next player to score on debut when he touched down in the corner to level the game and when Jarrod Mullen kicked a 40/20 to put his side in a the perfect position to score; it was his Knights teammate Tyrone Roberts who made the City defence pay with a short ball to Mead to score his second for a 16-10 half- time lead.
With both sides fighting hard to gain the upper hand in the early stages of the second half, it was City who were applying all the pressure with repeated sets on the opposition line. However, the Country defence held firm and when they finally got some field position it was Jamal Idris who came up with the big play, latching onto a cross field kick to extend the lead to 22-10 after 60 minutes.
The big Penrith Panther was at it again minutes later when he steamrolled Dylan Walker to put James McManus over for what appeared to be the match winning try and a 26-10 lead after 70 minutes.
When Andrew Fifita crossed with five minutes on the clock, only the most pessimistic of Country fans would have been shifting in their seats, but when Will Hopoate offloaded to Daniel Tupou for the Roosters winger to tip-toe along the sideline and plant the ball down in the 78th minute and reduce the defecit to six points, Country fans were beginning to feel nervous.
It was then that man again, Will Hopoate, who broke Country hearts with a brilliant run after great lead up work from Dylan Walker to level the game and cap off a great game by both teams.
History will show that Country retained the shield after last year’s victory, but both sets of fans will have left feeling pleased with what they had just witnessed.
Country 26 (D Mead 2, J McManus, K Gordan, J Idris tries; T Roberts 3 goals)
City 26 (Tupou 2, J Reynolds, A Fifita, W Hopoate tries; A Reynolds 3 goals)