It was a mid-table tussle in Newcastle as the Knights took on the Tigers when eighth played tenth. The Knights could make It up to fifth in the ladder with a win but knew that a loss would see the Wests just a point behinds them and would be a blow to their top eight hopes.
Both coaches were forced into a handful of changes. The home side had Green, Jones, Shibasaki and To’a in their line-up while Michael McGuire had Twal, Leilua, Eisenhuth and Packer in his seventeen-man squad.
Home advantage, and ladder position, made the Knights the favourites but both sides came into the game on the back of two losses, and both have won just once in their last four outings.
It took ten minutes but the opening try was all too easy for the Knights as full-back Kalyn Ponga stepped out of a tackle to walk over under the posts from ten metres. Ponga added the conversion for 6-0, the perfect start for the home side.
Hymel Hunt added the second Newcastle try on thirteen as they kept the ball alive on the last tackle, passing it left to right and the ball ending up in the hands of the winger off a Mitchell Barnett pass to ground in space. Ponga added the extra two for a dominant Sharks.
A Ponga penalty on sixteen pushed the lead to fourteen points.
The third Knights try came on twenty-three with fast hands finding Starford To’a with a miss-out pass to stoop low and ground in the corner. Ponga was left of the uprights with his conversion attempt but at 18-0 Newcastle were in complete control.
Five minutes out from the interval a Benji Marshall grubber hit a Knights foot and the ricochet was dribbled forward by Luciano Leilua with the second rower chasing the ball down to ground. Mbye couldn’t add the conversion, the Tigers 4-18 behind.
The Knights weren’t finished for the half and with seconds left Jacob Saifiti took three tacklers with him to get the point of the ball down on the line. Ponga kicked the conversion and the Knight took a 24-4 lead into the sheds.
Herman Ese’ese extended the lead with four minutes on the second half clock as he fended off three tackles to score from ten metres out. Ponga smashed the conversion between the uprights, it was starting to look ugly for Wests.
Three minutes later Ponga got his second of the night finding a gap from twenty metres out to score a simple try. He added the conversion for 34-4, the Knights doing their points difference the world of good.
On sixty-two, a fast play-the-ball ad short pass from Ponga found Shibasaki to go through a gap and score from two metres. Ponga hit the upright but at 38-4 it was now officially a massacre.
Ten minutes from time it was the forty when Crossland was on hand to take a pass from Aiden Guerra after the second rower took a high kick. Ponga kicked the conversion for 46-4.
Wests Tigers never got off the coach in a one-sided walkover for a Newcastle Knights side who look intent on stealing a top four place for the play-offs. After toiling hard in the opening ten minutes, once they first breached the Wests line the outcome was never in any doubt. Ponga had a field day for the home side with a personal haul of twenty-two points in his sides convincing win.
Newcastle Knights: Ponga (2T, 7G), To’a (T), Tuala, Shibasaki (T), Hunt (T), Green, Pearce, Klemmer, Mann, Saifiti (T), Fitzgibbon, Guerra, Barnett. Subs: Crossland (T), King, Ese’ese (T), Jones.
Wests Tigers: Doueihi, Nofoaluma, Leilua, Talau, Kepaoa, Brooks, Marshall, Aloiai, Mbye, Packer, Lawrence, Leilua (T), Eisenhuth. Subs: McIntyre, Mikaele, Blore, Walters.
Referee: Matt Cecchin.
Ground: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle.