Pearce injury mars Knights miracle NRL win

Matt Encarnacion
A torn pectoral muscle might sideline Newcastle NRL playmaker Mitchell Pearce for three months

Newcastle's dramatic two-point win over the Wests Tigers has been soured by a possible torn pectoral muscle to Mitchell Pearce which might sideline him for three months.

The Knights were down 20-18 on Saturday when Shaun Kenny-Dowall soared to take a Jamie Buhrer cross-field kick and steal a thrilling victory in Tamworth.

But the elation soon turned to disappointment after news of Pearce's injury, which was also likely to rule the incumbent NSW halfback out of this year's State of Origin series.

"It's certainly a pectoral problem, which is going to be some long-term issue. Whether it's 12 weeks or season, whatever it is we probably won't know until tomorrow," Knights coach Nathan Brown said.

"Anyone that loses their halfback and one of their best players, it's not great.

"But I'd like to think that with the experience that some of our younger halves have got over the previous few years - we've got our squad stronger - we should be able to try and overcome these things."

It appeared the Knights had wasted a 10-point halftime lead when the Tigers came out of the sheds and scored three tries in five minutes to surge to an 18-10 advantage.

But the Knights fought back to get within striking distance late, and Kenny-Dowall's last-ditch play sealed the Knights' their fourth win of the season, and also ended the Tigers' winning streak at three.

Knights winger Ken Sio was an unlikely hero in front of the 10,082 crowd at Scully Park, finishing with his first-career hat-trick to save the goalkicking blemishes of star fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Ponga's wayward boot looked to have cost them two points after converting just one of five attempts.

The win lifts Newcastle back into the top eight on four wins. The Tigers remain in fourth spot, missing an opportunity to join St George Illawarra and the Warriors at the top of the table.

The Knights had the upper hand at halftime after a solid opening 40 minutes, beginning with Ponga's sublime cutout for Sio to draw first blood in the 21st minute.

Concussion tests for Jacob Liddle and Benji Marshall paved the way for more shots at the Tigers' line, and Pearce didn't need a second invitation, slicing through in the 34th minute.

Marshall's return immediately paid dividends for the hosts, with the reborn playmaker bombing for Kevin Naiqama and chipping for Corey Thompson to give his team the advantage.

But the Knights came back into the contest through the work of their left edge, with Fitzgibbon then Pearce setting up Sio before Kenny-Dowall's late heroics.

Tigers coach Ivan Cleary admitted his team were flat from the outset.

"We just couldn't quite get it going. I was really happy at the start of the second half - 18-10 up, we were entitled to go on with it," he said.

"But we had some really bad errors, a bit of discipline issues and invited them back in."