In a match that saw Kalyn Ponga play for the Knights after being snubbed by Queensland for State of Origin, Newcastle emerged victorious against a depleted Manly side with a score of 28-18. With Ponga in the limelight, winger Greg Marzhew netted three tries for the Knights, and Dane Gagai put in a solid performance after being dropped by Queensland. Despite missing Daly Cherry-Evans, Tom Trbojevic, and Jake Trbojevic (due to State of Origin and injury), Manly managed to remain in contention at McDonald Jones Stadium, scoring two tries via intercepts. They were still in the game with 15 minutes to go when Tolutau Koula was sin-binned for a high hit on Ponga. Ultimately, it proved decisive for the Knights.
Phoenix Crossland cleaned up a scrappy play and scored under the posts, before Dominic Young brushed off four defenders and sealed the match with a try that went for 95 meters. Ponga had a mixed performance in his first match after being snubbed by the Maroons due to concussion concerns. The Knights moved him to No.1, and he was involved in almost everything at the beginning of the match. However, he threw an intercept for Manly’s first try and a short dropout that led to a penalty goal for the opposition.
Despite these blunders, Ponga rebounded and looked dangerous almost every time he ran the ball, producing several half breaks and throwing the last pass for a go-ahead Marzhew try early in the second half. Ponga also bounced back from some hits and wasn’t required to go off for an HIA despite contact to his head in both halves. The fullback finished with four tackle busts and two line-break assists, looking more threatening at No.1 than in his old No.6.
After Manly took the early lead with Ponga’s errors, the Knights managed to crawl back into the match when they found success attacking Manly’s left edge. Jackson Hastings and Bradman Best combined to put Marzhew over in the 31st minute, before Tyson Gamble ran down the middle in the next set and put Best over.
Manly had a one-point lead before the break when Lachlan Croker profited from a batted-down pass after a Josh Schuster kick. The first half of the match could only be described as rushed, with the Knights appearing to struggle to find their composure before the break. However, they found their rhythm in the second half. They regained control when Ponga put Marzhew over before the winger completed his hat-trick and gave Newcastle the lead in the next set.
Manly was able to hit back through a Jason Saab intercept. However, when the game was on the line, the Sea Eagles missed their key players and spark in attack, compared to a Knights side that managed to ice their late opportunities.