It took a while but for the first time in two years, the Newcastle Knights have won three straight, after victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs.
The 22-10 victory was a hard-fought, gritty affair, and was almost lost in many ways, as the Knights lost control of the game at certain points.
Nathan Brown’s coaching position is always under much scrutiny and not too long ago, he was facing the flick.
Fast forward three weeks, however, and the Knights are on the cusp of the eight and full of confidence.
As expected, their best player in Kalyn Ponga was involved early. His lovely pass at the line put Hymel Hunt over to score.
Soon after, halfback Mitchell Pearce continued his rare try-scoring form, chasing after his own deflected grubber.
It was a stellar first half from start to finish for the Knights and it was capped off by a try to back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
Sitting pretty as the second half started, the Knights looked close to scoring again but for an intercept try to Reimis Smith.
Repeated pressure proved telling as the Dogs cut the deficit even further.
Josh Jackson’s quick hands gave Will Hopoate the chance to score in the corner, and he made the most of it.
Though when you need a big moment, you need key men to step up and Ponga did just that.
With the game winding down, Ponga took the line on, darted back inside and showed blistering pace to run away and score.
Although the Dogs are showing their determination, yet another loss has them languishing at the bottom of the ladder.
After an earlier failed move to five-eighth, Knights coach Nathan Brown admits moving Ponga back to fullback may have helped Pearce.
“Maybe getting him to get his own game in order enough, maybe thinking about the rest of them possibly played a part, definitely,” Brown said.
“One thing that has evolved in Mitchell’s game since he first started as a young kid is running a team.
“Some times when you are looking to run a team – and in our case as gifted as Kalyn is he’s only young – maybe he took a little bit too much responsibility on.”
The return of Foran is a huge boost for the Bulldogs and coach Dean Pay knows sooner rather than later, he will regain top form.
“Hopefully Kieran gets back to what he was doing before he got hurt where we started to play some really good footy,” Pay said.
“He is a big part of our team as our number one ball-player and he is only going to get better.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Kalyn Ponga
2. Mitchell Pearce
- Josh Jackson