Ponga laughs off horror goal-kicking night
Kalyn Ponga could only laugh off his horror night of goal-kicking after the Knights came from behind to snatch a 22-20 victory against the Wests Tigers.
Newcastle scored one extra try in the two-point win but Ponga endured a tough night at the office, slotting one goal from five – including an early penalty from easy range that hit the uprights – to keep the Wests Tigers on top until late in the game.
Ponga has been a standout for his new club to start the season in all facets of the game, including his boot. He has missed only four conversions prior to the clash on Saturday night.
The emerging star saw the funny side to it when quizzed as the Knights came away with two competition points, but is still eager to correct things before next weekend against Manly.
"Oh I know, how bad was it?," Ponga told NRL.com.
"I sucked, to be honest. It was pretty bad. I don't know, it was a confidence thing. I kicked well the first few rounds and started to miss a few.
"I'll get back to practice this week. I've got to be better, that's what it comes down to. I hold a higher expectation on myself at training. I'm filthy."
Knights coach Nathan Brown was quick to defend Ponga's efforts following the match, with the former Cowboys product splitting the Tigers up the middle at the death that led to Jamie Buhrer setting Shaun Kenny-Dowall up for the match-winner.
"He's been kicking at 80 per cent and had an off night," Brown said.
"Because we scored some really good tries they were out wide. He wasn't really missing them in close. He'll get back with his goal-kicking coach, who won't get paid this week.
"At the end of the day, he came up with a beautiful pass and a line-break for JB's kick for the try.
"His attack got us going. These days are going to come for KP, they come for all goal kickers, but he played a big part so we'll give him a big tick."
Ponga played down his attacking efforts, preferring to praise rookie five-eighth Jack Cogger for steering the side around the park in the final five minutes with Mitchell Pearce off the field with a pectoral injury.
It was a long time coming for Cogger, who enjoyed his first victory at the top level in nine appearances over three seasons.
"It was his first game this year and grabbed the group as a young fella and said this is what we're going to do and how we're going to do it," Ponga said of Cogger.
"We weren't happy with how we came out in the second half, but we regrouped and said we were going to win this in the last three minutes and lucky enough we did.
"That comes off the back of effort and hard work."
Newcastle will be sweating on results for Pearce, with initial fears the injury might be season-ending.
Connor Watson is expected to return on Friday night against Manly and could partner Jack Cogger in the halves for the trip to Lottoland.