When Tom Trbojevic returned for Manly a few months ago, he single-handedly turned the Sea Eagles’ fortunes around.
We may have witnessed something similar tonight, with Kalyn Ponga sensational in his return from injury.
The Knights were dominant from start to finish, demolishing the North Queensland Cowboys by 38-0.
Newcastle scored first after just five minutes.
After a Valentine Holmes kick rolled dead, the Knights earned a seven-tackle set. From the resulting Jake Clifford bomb, Dominic Young picked up the loose ball and passed to Kalyn Ponga who was in.
The Knights struck again ten minutes later. Mitchell Pearce held up the ball nicely for Jacob Saifiti who was never going to be stopped one-on-one by Tom Dearden.
The Cowboys were making plenty of errors while the Knights were playing near flawless football.
With 15 minutes remaining in the half, Newcastle’s dominance was again rewarded.
In his first game against his old club, a Clifford bomb was taken uncontested by Kurt Mann. He managed to squeeze a pass away to Connor Watson who was in under the posts.
From the ensuing kick off, Newcastle was in again.
From deep in their own half, a brilliant left side play saw Young in the clear down the wing. Ponga was backing up inside to score his second try.
From there, the Cowboys survived until halftime but the damage was done. The Knights led 22-0 and had played the perfect half of footy.
The Cowboys started the second half better, getter through their sets and threatening an unlikely comeback. However, where the Knights attack was on song, the Cowboys looked clunky.
North Queensland looked devoid of ideas and relied on the short kicking games of Scott Drinkwater and Dearden. While that did build up some pressure, it didn’t result in a Cowboys try.
That pressure burst with 20 minutes left on the clock. From inside his half, Ponga cruised through the middle of the ruck and headed left.
He turned the ball back inside to Young who managed to get the ball down.
Ponga and Young combined again just ten minutes later. After a Pearce bomb wasn’t cleaned up, Ponga kicked across field to the left and Young was in untouched.
The Knights crowd were calling for one more and it came with just over three minutes remaining.
After a long Enari Tuala break, the Knights founds themselves on the Cowboys try line. An inside ball from Pearce iced the win as Connor Watson bustled over.
With Tyson Frizell and Bradman Best returning within a few weeks, the Knights could well make a run for the eight on the back of this performance.
With a favourable draw on the way home, Knights fans can finally look forward to September.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, play the Rabbits, Roosters and Storm over the next three weeks. They may well look back on this weekend as the round their finals aspirations started to fall away.
3 points: In his return from injury, Kalyn Ponga confirmed his class. Other than being safe at the back, Ponga scored two tries and had a leading hand in two more. As far as comebacks from injury are concerned, they don’t get much better.
2 points: Jake Clifford will only get better as he develops a combination with Pearce, but his kicking game was on song tonight with his bombs leading to a couple of tries.
1 point: Jayden Brailey had another good game at dummy half, organising the play while also making a number of dummy half runs. With 41 tackles, he topped the count for the Knights.