Ponga all class as Knights torch Wests Tigers

Newcastle have secured back-to-back wins for the first time in 2023 with a 34-18 victory over the Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.

Knights star Kalyn Ponga brushed aside a rough night on the goal-kicking front to set up three of the side's seven tries and continue his purple patch of form since switching back to fullback. 

Wests Tigers didn't go away throughout the evening until a try to Tyson Gamble with seven minutes remaining put the Knights ahead by 14 to seal victory.

The Knights survived a horror opening set when the Wests Tigers appeared to have scored from a Will Smith kick before the NRL Bunker ruled Jahream Bula had knocked the ball forward for Tommy Talau to go over. 

Newcastle ran in three tries in 12 minutes following the call to set up a 12-0 lead with Ponga setting up Greg Marzhew and Bradman Best on the left before Dom Young crossed on the right with the visitors' edge defence non-existent.

Ponga's off night with conversions early was keeping the Wests Tigers in it until Daniel Saifiti - who spilled two balls earlier - crossed from close range in front of the posts. 

The visitors needed a spark to avoid being in for a long night with the youngest player on the park - Bula - the provider when he crossed on the right edge with a show-and-go play. 

Newcastle's 12-point lead narrowed further two minutes before the break when Api Koroisau pounced on a grubber kick that couldn't be cleaned up by Ponga and Gamble close to the line.

Knights firebrand Jack Hetherington was sent to the sin-bin shortly after half-time for striking out at Will Smith with a slap after a high shot from the Wests Tigers five-eighth.

Despite being a man down in the defensive line it meant nothing when Ponga crossed on the left edge with his side-stepping ways getting past three defenders to the line.

Goal-kicking continued to prove difficult, however, and the joint venture made the home side pay some more when Isaiah Papali'i ran over Gamble to send Bula over for his second of the evening. 

For all the points Ponga wasn't making with the boot, he was returning serve with the try assists, coming up with his third of the evening to gift Young a second try out wide. 

The English winger was denied a third try in the 67th minute with Bula pulling off a try-saver to jolt the ball free as the Knights looked to stretch their lead further. 

Bula, who along with skipper Koroisau were among the visitors' best for the evening, couldn't deny Gamble the match-winner after Young broke away on the right edge before finding his five-eighth in support to finish the game.

Original article by: NRL.com

Alicia Newton - NRL Reporter