The Knights continued their recent excellent form with a surprise hammering of the Sydney Roosters in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd in Newcastle.
In an opening that had the intensity and physically of the upcoming State of Origin series, it was the Knights who scored the first try; their defensive pressure told as the Roosters threw two wild passes on their own 20 metre line – the second from Luke Keary was intercepted by Hymel Hunt who didn’t have far to go for the 8th minute try. Keary didn’t return as he hit his head into the turf as part of the play.
After Kalyn Ponga increased the lead to 10-0 with the Knights’ second penalty goal, the Roosters scored their first try as James Tedesco took a cheeky quick tap after a coach-killing fifth tackle penalty was conceded by the Knights.
The intensity continued for the rest of the first half, but Newcastle took control of the game with two tries in five minutes before half time to lead 22-6 at the break. The first was yet another demonstration of the gift that Ponga is for rugby league, showing all the skills to break through from 20 metres, throwing the final pass to Mitchell Pearce, whose steaming prop-like run saw him score under the posts seconds before half time, after good lead up work from the excellent Connor Watson.
Newcastle extended their lead with the first set of the second half as Watson ran 40 metres from dummy half, through some Roosters defenders and around James Tedesco.
After a few penalty goals boosted the scoreline, the Knights ensured the big local crowd would go home happy when Pearce found Edrick Lee with the perfect flat pass to score in the corner.
The Roosters got a consolation try through Siosiua Taukeiaho after Watson spilled a grubber on his line, and despite the efforts of another outstanding James Tedesco performance, the score remained 38-12.
Has Mitchell Pearce played his way into the State of Origin side?
Newcastle’s run of five consecutive wins have come in no small part to Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga, but while Ponga is one of the first names selected by Queensland on Monday for the upcoming State of Origin series, Pearce will have a nervous wait for Sunday night’s Blues announcement.
On recent form, the Newcastle halfback deserves another crack at winning an Origin series with the Blues, but that previous lack of success with NSW that could hold him back.
Pearce has been helped by Nathan Cleary’s form slump, and a reluctance to trust Adam Reynolds at Origin level, but he has been playing well and looks sharp. His style would also suit playing alongside a Luke Keary or Cody Walker at number six.
He’ll surely have a number of supporters in Queensland wishing for his name to be selected on Sunday night; they may just have to eat their taunts if he continues to go as well as he is for Newcastle.
Refs might say Jared Waerea-Hargreaves hit is legal, but it’s ugly
Halfway through the second half – and with the Knights well in control – Kalyn Ponga put what looked a reasonably innocuous kick down the left to finish a good attacking set, but was left lying flat on the ground after receiving attention from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves after he kicked the ball.
Whilst the slowest of slow mos makes everything look worse than it probably is, the hit by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was certainly late, and questionable on the height of the tackle. Further to that he followed through, the motion causing Ponga to smash his head into the ground.
Although momentum is a hard thing to balance as the big man chases down a halfback, there should be at least a standard in leaving a kicker alone, as people pay to watch the creative people create more than watching a big man smash a player after they’ve kicked the ball. Whatever the referee says, it looked like a penalty
Ponga left the field and never returned; thankfully for the Knights they were well ahead and could afford a late reshuffle. Happily for Queensland he will be ok for Origin one.
First half is the key to beating the Roosters
The Roosters have been the first half kings this season.
But two teams have scored more than one try against the Roosters in the first 40 minutes this season, and both of them have won. The first was South Sydney in round one, and the Knights are the second.
In fact the 22 points Newcastle scored in the first half is almost double the next best.
Even the Broncos beat the Roosters last week on the back of being able to restrict the Roosters’ scoring in the first 40 minutes.
Of course having no Cooper Cronk, and losing Luke Keary in the 8th minute to concussion, doesn’t help. But keep the Roosters quiet in the first half and you have every chance of beating them.
Can the Knights continue to slay their way up the ladder?
Based on tonight’s performance against the Roosters, you would have to say absolutely, if they stay injury free.
They have now won five in a row, and while Kalyn Ponga has been class since his arrival at the start of 2018, you would have to argue that David Klemmer is having as much an impact to the forward pack as Ponga is in attack.
Add players like Hymel Hunt, the crowd favourite Edrick Lee, and the impressive Connor Watson, and James Gavet.
The bad news – or news depending on your allegiances- is that Newcastle have the bye next weekend, which hopefully doesn’t slow their charge to September.
Newcastle will want to be at their best when they return to action, as they have a hard run that includes the Rabbitohs, Broncos, and Melbourne. They will be every chance in all of those games if they arrive with the intensity of tonight’s match.
Even if they don’t, at least their loyal fans are getting a deserved run of success to cheer for. They rocketed up to fourth on Friday night after the win.
Tries: Hymel Hunt, Kalyn Ponga, Mitchell Pearce, Connor Watson, Edrick Lee
Goals: Kalyn Ponga 7/7, Mitchell Barnett 2/2
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 12
Tries: James Tedesco, Siosiua Taukeiaho
Goals: Latrell Mitchell 2/2
Newcastle 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
Sydney Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 5. Matt Ikuvalu 4. Joseph Manu 17. Mitchell Aubusson 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 6. Luke Keary 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Victor Radley 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Isaac Liu. Interchange: 14. Nat Butcher 16. Sitili Tupouniua 18. Lindsay Collins 21. Brock Lamb