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Ponga fires Knights to victory in Perth shootout

For the first time since Round 6 the Knights have moved into the top eight, after coming from behind to beat the Dolphins 30-28 in a try-fest in Perth.

Three tries in the final 27 minutes lifted Newcastle to victory, after they had trailed the Dolphins 22-12 with half an hour to play, with skipper Kalyn Ponga at the heart of the revival which leaves the Knights undefeated in their last five games. 

Ponga scored the opening four-pointer of the game off a long-range support run and went on to set up his side's final two tries with clutch plays, along with clocking up 179 run metres from just 10 carries. 

Earlier it had looked like a golden 10-minute period from Jamayne Isaako would set the Dolphins up for victory, and while they fought to the very end they ultimately couldn't match the class of the Knights when the game sat in the balance. 

After Newcastle had come close on two occasions through Greg Marzhew, Ponga got the scoring going, but the wheels soon fell off in dramatic fashion. 

Kalyn Ponga try 11th minute

With Lachlan Fitzgibbon in the sin bin for a hip drop, Isaako scored a hat trick in the space of eight minutes to get the Dolphins to a 14-6 advantage.

While the first two were tidy finishes in the corner after stripping the Knights for numbers, the third required brilliant athleticism, as the former Kiwi Test player jumped high to claim a ball and put it down just before the dead-ball line. 

Jamayne Isaako try 26th minute

After forcing a turnover the Knights hit back to through Kurt Mann to reduce their deficit to two at the break, but the start to the second 40 was something straight out of coach Adam O'Brien's worst nightmares.

After kicking the restart out on the full, a penalty for a Tyson Frizell high shot – which saw him placed on report – presented Isaako with an easy two points, before rookie wonder Valynce Te Whare scored to stretch the lead to 10. 

Next it was the Dolphins turn to concede after a penalty that resulted in a player being put on report, with Jarrod Wallace pinged for a dangerous tackle and Jackson Hastings strolling through a would-be tackle from Kenny Bromwich for a try under the posts. 

Then Ponga hit go, first fending away two defenders at the end of a movement involving six Newcastle players to put Phoenix Crossland over, before providing the final pass for Marzhew to score. 

Phoenix Crossland try 58th minute

A golden chance to find a winner with three minutes left, after Newcastle coughed up possession 10 metres out, was blown by the Dolphins when Herman Ese'ese was found to have held a player in the scrum.

The ball went back to the Knights and the contest was effectively over at that point, despite the Dolphins having one last possession. 

Match Snapshot

  • Newcastle won despite having only 47 percent of the ball and committing 11 errors to the Dolphins' seven.
  • Kalyn Ponga finished with a try, two try assists, two line breaks and nine tackle busts. 
  • Lachlan Fitzgibbon was sent to the sin bin and placed on report in the 23rd minute for a hip drop tackle, while teammate Tyson Frizell was cited for a high tackle in the opening minutes of the second half. 
  • Jarrod Wallace was placed on report for a dangerous tackle on 53 minutes. 
  • Jacob Saifiti failed to finish the match due to a hamstring injury suffered midway through the first half.  
  • Adam Elliott and Kenny Bromwich both left the field for head injury assessments in the first half which they passed. 
  • The Dolphins have now won only one of their six games played outside Queensland this season.
  • With his hat-trick in Perth Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako has now scored 11 tries in his past 10 games.

Play of the Game

Having just scored a quickfire double, Jamayne Isaako capped off arguably the best 10-minute period experienced by a player this season by leaping high to claim his third. As Greg Marzhew attempted to watch the ball go dead, Isaako took matters into his own hands and produced a nice finish to beat the dead-ball line. 

Isaako's third was a beauty!

What They Said

"[Jamayne] has been one of our best players all season, he's been a pleasure to watch. Just the energy that he plays with each week." – Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett. 

Dolphins: Round 23

"I'm rapt first and foremost. I don't think we played particularly well, there were some moments in the game we'd like to have back... at the end of the day the team has been performing at a pretty high level for the last four or five weeks, I did anticipate that there would be a game where you aren't quite at your best. Fortunately, they managed to fight their way back and get the two points." – Knights coach Adam O'Brien. 

Knights: Round 23

What's Next

The Dolphins head to Allianz Stadium to face a Roosters side who will be buoyed by a big win over Manly in Round 23. The Knights are back home at McDonald Jones Stadium to take on the Bulldogs, with prop Daniel Saifiti a chance of being available after time out with a quad injury, but concern sure to surround the fitness of his brother Jacob after he was injured in Round 23. 

Acknowledgement of Country

The Dolphins respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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