Ponga ices win as Knights slay Dogs
NEWCASTLE have survived a second-half fightback from Canterbury to return to the top eight with a third straight victory.
On the back of the Knights' money-men Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga, Newcastle set-up their 22-10 win with a 16-0 lead - but it wasn't without controversy.
The Dogs were denied what appeared to be a Pearce knock-on and an opportunity to level the scores with just under two minutes remaining.
The no knock-on call led to Ponga icing the win with a runaway try.
In David Klemmer's first match against his former club Canterbury, the NSW State of Origin forward was typically dominant in running for 155m - the most of any Newcastle player.
Thirty-eight days ago, Bulldogs halfback Kieran Foran was lying in a hospital bed having just undergone surgery to his ankle.
On Saturday, the former Kiwi Test half defied his original 12-week recovery time to return after seven weeks out with a performance that gives every Dogs fan hope.
Turning back the clock with his running game, Foran also played with control and creativity, and in the second half all but dragged the Dogs to victory.
Coach Dean Pay took a big stick to the Bulldogs' line-up prior to kick-off, making four changes.
The last time Pay went for the axe, Canterbury responded with a resounding win over the Tigers in round three at Campbelltown.
And while a repeat dose was unable to be achieved on Saturday, the sight of Foran back from injury at the scrum base and the efforts of late replacements Ofahiki Ogden and Marcelo Montoya were enough to ensure they survive another week at least.
Playing in the centres, Montoya had an impressive 14 runs for 154m.
First-half tries to Hymel Hunt, Mitchell Pearce and Lachlan Fitzgibbon enabled the Knights to secure their third consecutive win for the first time since round 23, 2017.
Pearce was superb, displaying all the tenacity and competitveness he's renowned for.
As confidence building and morale boosting as wins over the Eels, Warriors and the Bulldogs are, these are the games the Knights should be winning if they're to take themselves seriously in this competition.
It's for this reason that Newcastle's lifeless effort against the Gold Coast last month came with such criticism and heated questions.
The Knights side that played direct, with intent and with patience on Saturday should never had 38 points put on them by the Titans.
And that's the challenge for Newcastle now.
Where do they rate? We'll know a lot more after they play St George-Illawarra in Mudgee next Sunday.
NEWCASTLE 22 (L Fitzgibbon H Hunt M Pearce K Ponga tries K Ponga 3 goals) bt CANTERBURY 10 (W Hopoate R Smith tries N Meaney goal) at Suncorp Stadium