The Newcastle Knights delivered their best performance in recent memory to continue their rise in form with a 45-12 win over a disappointing St. George-Illawarra Dragons in front of over 9,000 at Mudgee’s Glen Willow Stadium.
Heading into today’s game the Knights were riding high on a three-match winning streak, whilst the Dragons were on a three-match losing streak which they hoped to arrest against the side they beat in round four. It didn’t take long for the Knights to show this was a different side the Dragons faced six weeks ago; they started with purpose and crossed early as Mitchell Pearce put through a perfectly weighted grubber kick for Tim Glasby to recover and score.
Newcastle continued to heap pressure on the Dragons, who gave away a penalty on their own line to gift Kalyn Ponga an easy penalty kick to take the score to 8-0. Ponga then showed the Mudgee fans what they came to see as he beat four defenders to score a brilliant solo try to take the score to 14-0. Another penalty goal preceded another brilliant piece of Ponga magic as he showed his first try was no fluke, producing another jaw-dropping display of speed and agility to score under the posts.
With the score at 22-0 the Dragons needed to be next to score, but the Knights wouldn’t take their foot off the throat as they crossed again through Kurt Mann who was starting at five-eighth, Pearce put his new halves partner through a gaping hole as Mann beat Matt Dufty to score against his former side. Leading 28-0 at halftime, the Knights had produced a near perfect half, whilst St. George-Illawarra were probably still wondering what had hit them.
The second half started much like the first with the Knights dominating all facets of the game, another perfect Pearce pass led to winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall crossing in the corner; the Knights then produced one of the tries of the season as they sent the ball from one side of the field to the other before Edrick Lee kicked ahead for Pearce to chase and score another Newcastle try. At 32-0 the statisticians were dusting off the record books.
On the back of seven straight penalties and a sin-bin for Mann, the Dragons finally crossed the try line after Tariq Sims ran onto a nice ball from Ben Hunt, the Dragons took advantage of the extra man as they again crossed for a try to Zac Lomax after some nice lead up work from Luciano Leilua and Hunt. The Knights had the last laugh, scoring again through Connor Watson, whilst Pearce put the icing on the cake with a long-range field goal.
Pearce and Ponga show
You’d be a harsh judge to find a bad player in the Knights’ lineup today, with everyone putting in good performances, but it was the Pearce-Ponga show today as the Knights’ fullback and No.7 put on a clinic. Ponga scored two brilliant solo tries and was also denied a third after a Dragons player was held back, he also scored 24 points a record individual haul against the joint venture side. Pearce was also sublime, scoring one try himself and laying on another four; after a slow start to the season both players are in arguably career-best form.
No puff from these Dragons
This season has been one for sides bouncing back from disappointing performances with plenty of sides producing miraculous one-week turnarounds; after losing their third match on the trot after leading the Warriors last week, many expected the Dragons to bounce back today. But to the horror of coach Paul McGregor and the Red V faithful, the Dragons started the game slow and barely showed a whimper until the Sims try. A damning stat showed the Dragons didn’t have a tackle inside the Knights’ half until the 18th minute, by that point the game was almost over, four losses in a row leaves them sitting 12th going into next week’s local derby against Cronulla.
Knights primed for Premiers
After winning four games in a row Newcastle now face their sternest test against the reigning premiers Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium next Friday. Whilst Nathan Brown was asked various questions about today’s game it was clear he’d already turned to next week’s match and the tough month ahead which includes away games against the Rabbitohs and Storm. There’s probably no better time for Newcastle to test themselves against the Roosters – coming off four straight wins their confidence will be sky high.
Happy Birthday Joey
Although the Knights’ greatest player of all time Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns wasn’t able to be at the game due to his own media commitments, the Knights gave the eighth Immortal the best present for his 45th birthday with their big win. Johns no doubt would have been watching the game unfold before he went on to commentate on the Sharks-Sea Eagles game and would have been pleased with the all-round performance of his beloved Knights, whilst the Pearce field goal left the Knights’ final score on the same birthday number of the Knights’ legend.
Newcastle Knights 45
Tries: Kalyn Ponga 2, Tim Glasby, Kurt Mann, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Mitchell Pearce, Connor Watson
Goals: Ponga 8/9
Drop Goals: Pearce
St. George-Illawarra Dragons 12
Tries: Tariq Sims, Zac Lomax
Goals: Jai Field 2/2
Drop Goals: N/A
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 14. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Tim Glasby Interchange: 6. Connor Watson 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. James Gavet 17. Sione Mata’utia
Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Zac Lomax 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Jai Field 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie Interchange: 15. Euan Aitken 16. Jacob Host 17. Luciano Leilua 20. Josh Kerr