Kalyn Ponga erupts over controversial HIA ruling in NRL return
The Knights captain was livid with the ruling, which sparked a frantic final few moments.
Kalyn Ponga and the Knights have been left seeking answers after the captain was taken off for a HIA when he claimed he wasn't concussed. Ponga has a long-history of concussions with one head knock ending his 2022 season early.
However, the captain was left baffled in the final stages of New Zealand's gritty 20-12 triumph at Sky Stadium on Friday night when he was removed from the field for the final 10 minutes. The Warriors won in Andrew Webster's first game as senior coach, sealing the points through Wayde Egan's 73rd minute try.
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But, instead of leading his team around the park, Ponga watched on from the sideline stranded after a bunker call for a HIA. Ponga dived for the ball when his head came into contact with a Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake.
The five-eighth appeared fine, but the game was stopped and referee Chris Sutton ordering him off the pitch. Ponga said he wasn't hurt and couldn't even identify the incident that led to him coming off the field.
“It will be interesting to see their take on it, I have been knocked out before and definitely wasn’t in any state,” Ponga said in his post-match press conference.
“I couldn’t believe it, 10 minutes to go, game on the line, I am literally fine, I think there’s an assessment that normally goes on but I got taken off by an independent doctor.
“It caught me by surprise, I said to the ref ‘I’m not going off’, but it’s not his call, it is someone in a box.”
Knights coach Adam O'Brien was equally miffed at why his star player was forced from the field. "I have no idea... who, why or how?" he said.
"They bumped it to a category two, which meant that he came straight off the field. He's unaware of any incident. And he knows what they feel like."
Kalyn Ponga’s removal due to a head knock last night. If it was based on his personal concussion history, I fundamentally have no issue with it; however if that is the way the HIA assessments will be working in 2023 could we have the NRL clarify it for fans? #NRLWarriorsKnights
— NRL.CON.AU (@NrlConspiracies) March 3, 2023
Warriors win their opening NRL match at home
The Knights battled their way through their season opener, with Tyson Frizell out early after a head clash and Phoenix Crossland sin-binned in the second half for a professional foul.
However, they started perfectly, stunning the hosts through Lachlan Fitzgibbon's try with 111 seconds gone after Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad made a mess of a high ball. Nicoll-Klokstad barely put a foot wrong from that moment, scoring himself in the second half and, like Adam Pompey, producing a try-saving tackle in the last 10 minutes as Newcastle chased the game.
"Talk about resilience," Webster said of the "outstanding" Nicoll-Klokstad.
"He drops the ball in the first set and bounces back to be one of the best players in the field."
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