Kalyn Ponga's massive statement as Knights continue NRL finals charge

NRL fans have hailed the Knights superstar after his second half masterclass in the NRL.

Pictured here, Kalyn Ponga in action for the Knights in the NRL.
Kalyn Ponga's stunning late-season form helped inspire the Knights to a fifth straight win in the NRL. Pic: Getty

Kalyn Ponga has lit up the rugby league world after continuing his extraordinary run of form in the back-end of the season for the Newcastle Knights. A second half masterclass from the superstar fullback helped the Knights seal an incredible comeback victory over the Dolphins in Perth.

Ponga scored one try to go with two try assists, five tackle busts, two linebreaks and two linebreak assists as the Knights came from eight points down in the second half to score a thrilling 30-28 win. The victory was Newcastle's fifth in a row and temporarily lifted them into sixth on the ladder, before Cronulla's win over Souths left them in seventh place.

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It's been a stunning late-season resurgence from the Knights, who were languishing in 14th place just six weeks ago. Following a 66-0 drubbing off the Bulldogs in round 18 though, Adam O'Brien's side have gone on a stunning run that included victories over the Tigers, Storm, Raiders and now the Dolphins, to go with a bye in round 19.

Ponga has been integral to a finals charge from Newcastle that looked unlikely for much of the season, with the 25-year-old responding to his State of Origin snub for Queensland in emphatic fashion. Since reverting from five-eighth back to his more familiar position as fullback for Newcastle, Ponga has gone from strength to strength and is arguably the form No.1 in the game right now, having recently revealed that he contemplated retirement after a spate of concussions.

The Knights skipper showed electric speed and support play to capitalise on a break from Dominic Young to grab the first try of the game against the Dolphins, who then hit the front after a stunning first half hat-trick from Jamayne Isaako. With the Dolphins leading 20-12 early in the second half, Ponga took his game to another level to inspire a stunning fightback from the Knights.

Seen here, Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga runs with the footy against the Dolphins in Perth.
Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga was a real handful for the Dolphins in Perth. Pic: Getty

NRL world in awe of Kalyn Ponga masterclass

Ponga fended off two opponents to set up Phoenix Crossland in the 58th minute, before another fast break from the star fullback resulted in what proved to be the match-winning try to Greg Marzhew in the 69th minute. He also booted a perfect five from five conversions in a flawless kicking display that ultimately proved the difference in the thrilling two-point win.

“Ponga has been absolutely outstanding. Isn’t it amazing when you need your best players to come to the fore," league great Steve Roach said in commentary for Fox League.

“Ponga unbelievable second half, after he kicked the ball out on the fall to start the second half he’s been outstanding.” Warren Smith added: “He’s helped his team come back in the second half from a fair way back.”

Newcastle's NRL finals charge heating up

The Knights now have the luxury of three straight games at home in Newcastle, where they will face the Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Sharks, before finishing their regular season with a trip to the lowly Dragons. O'Brien's men will fancy their chance in all those remaining matches and based on current form, are good value to secure finals footy and perhaps, even a top-four finish.

In contrast, the Dolphins (8-12) have lost seven of their past eight games to crash out of contention. Wayne Bennett's side had a late chance to snatch victory after being awarded a scrum metres out from Newcastle's tryline but Herman Ese'ese gave away a penalty for holding an opponent's jersey as the chance went begging.

Bennett was in no mood to discuss the incident during a frosty press conference in which he was asked to give his thoughts on the crucial late penalty. "I don't want to share it (my opinion) with you," Bennett said. When pressed on why not, the Dolphins coach responded: "Because it's just my opinion, and I'm not really interested in sharing it."

with AAP

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