Lachy MacCorquodale reviews the round 17 clash between top eight sides, the Newcastle Knights and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. Here’s how the game went.
|5th||Try Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Cronulla 4-0|
|9th||Try Starford Tu’a (Newcastle)||4-all|
|13th||Try Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle)||Newcastle 8-4|
|17th||Try Starford Tu’a (Newcastle)||Newcastle 12-4|
|18th||Conversion Mason Lino (Newcastle)||Newcastle 14-4|
|21st||Penalty Goal Mason Lino (Newcastle)||Newcastle 16-4|
|32nd||Try Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle)||Newcastle 20-4|
|34th||Conversion Mason Lino (Newcastle)||Newcastle 22-4|
|56th||Try Connor Tracey (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Newcastle 22-8|
|57th||Conversion Bryson Goodwin (Cronulla-Sutherland)||Newcastle 22-10|
|66th||Try Lachlan Fitzgibbon (Newcastle)||Newcastle 26-10|
|69th||Try Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle)||Newcastle 30-10|
|71st||Conversion Mason Lino (Newcastle)||Newcastle 32-10|
|78th||Try Josh King (Newcastle)||Newcastle 36-10|
|79th||Conversion Mason Lino (Newcastle)||Newcastle 38-10|
It was the worst possible start for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks with Blayke Brailey’s kick-off going too long, gifting the Newcastle Knights a penalty on half way to get the game underway.
In their very first set of six a a grubber kick directed at the posts looked like it had granted David Klemmer a rare try in the opening two minutes, until it was ruled as a knock-on by the prop, denying the try.
However, it would be the Sharks who troubled the scorers first, with a shift to the right edge, finishing with an offload from Will Kennedy to Ronaldo Mulitalo who stepped inside the Enari Tuala and broke Mason Lino’s attempted tackle to score the opener. The Knights fired right back, getting a set inside the Sharks 20m line, which saw dummy-half Kurt Mann expose a narrow edge defence by throwing a cut-out ball to winger Starford To’a who ran in untouched to bring Newcastle level.
Knights fullback, Kalyn Ponga looked dangerous in the very opening set and continued to threaten the Sharks defensive line. Ponga received the football 20 metres out from the Sharks try line, square up two middle forwards and broke through their tackles with speed and after that he was on his way to scoring.
Two attempted tackles from Brayden Trindall and Will Kennedy couldn’t do anything to stop the young fullback from scoring next to the posts.
The Knights continued to keep their foot on the pedal, easily marching into the Sharks 20 once again and this time a grubber kick from Mason Lino did the damage as To’a grounded it for his second try of the night.
Sharks interchange forward, Toby Rudolf came onto the field and tried to stamp his presence on the game, however, he was overly ‘keen’ to do so and received a penalty for a dangerous throw on the smaller Mason Lino, gifting the Knights a shot from right in front of goal.
Safe to say the opening 20 minutes of this fixture was action packed. Over the next 10 minute period, it looked like both sides were settling into their game plans, but it was an error in front of their own try-line that would give the Knights a perfect opportunity to score. It was Ponga once again who would provide the spark as he stepped his way through the Sharks defence and broke several tackles on the left edge as he went through to score his second for the night.
An exciting opening term mainly in the favour of the Newcastle Knights, with some brilliant footy from their star fullback Ponga.
A couple of errors to each side early in the second half halted any potential for points to be scored in the opening ten minutes.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, Sharks halfback Chad Townsend had one of the all time brain fades with a jumping shoulder charge into Kalyn Ponga after a twenty-metre restart, knocking Ponga off his feet. The stupid act from Townsend rightfully resulted in the halfback being sent from the field for the remainder of the match.
Despite the one man disadvantage, the Sharks found themselves in the Knights own twenty-metre zone with interchange half, Connor Tracey, taking on the line and scoring on the right edge to bring them within 12 points of the Knights.
The Knights finally found their first points after the sending off of Townsend as Mitchell Pearce isolated Lachlan Fitzgibbon with Sharks back-rower Briton Nikora who failed to complete the tackle, leaving too much work for Will Kennedy to do, resulting in Fitzgibbon scoring the fifth try for the Knights.
Just a few minutes elapsed before the star man once again got his name on the scoresheet. Ponga exposed a large hole in the defence and rolled through from 20 metres in front to score his first career hat trick.
The Knights finished it off with another four pointer through a one pass hit up by Josh King who went over the line for his first try in his 59th game.
A big performance from the Knights which will unfortunately be highlighted by Chad Townsend’s brain fade.
The highlight of the game was the aforementioned sending off of Sharks halfback, Chad Townsend.
But it was Kalyn Ponga who stole the show. The Queensland fullback had a night to remember, scoring his first hat trick of his 65 game career.
Despite being targeted constantly by the Sharks defence, the fullback walked off battered and bruised knowing that he had given it his all for his football club. Ponga finished the night with 222 run metres which included three line breaks.
He was influential for the Knights tonight and posed a constant threat whenever he touched the football, which started with his first career, in which he broke two tackles.
In fact, Ponga went on to break an incredible 15 tackles in his 21 carries of the football. He displayed some brilliant footwork in his first two tries, highlighting why he is one of the most exciting players in the game today.
The star fullback seems to be hitting his stride at the right part of the season, as fans, I can only hope this continues.
Newcastle Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Starford To’a 3. Enari Tuala 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Kurt Mann 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange: 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. Josh King 17. Brodie Jones.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: 1. William Kennedy 2. Ronaldo Mulitalo 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 19. Bryson Goodwin 6. Braydon Trindall 7. Chad Townsend 8. Brade Hamlin-Uele 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aarod Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 15. Scott Sorensen. Interchange: 13. Toby Rudolf 14. Connor Tracey 16. Siosifa Talakai 17. Royce Hunt.