Ponga's versatility a silver lining for Brown

Ponga's versatility a silver lining for Brown

While it was not the result Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown was after, he was impressed by Kalyn Ponga's ability to step into the halfback role when Mitchell Pearce suffered another injury blow.

The Knights suffered their seventh loss at home going down 25-16 to Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.

For the second time this season, Pearce was forced off with a quadricep injury early in the second half after receiving a nasty cork, which puts him in doubt for next week's trip to New Zealand.

But in his absence, Ponga stepped up his kicking game earning valuable metres and even collected  himself a fine individual try.

"He showed what he can do in the Origin [game two] at first receiver," Brown said.

"The great thing is that he wants the ball, and you want your great players to want the ball.

"As a club and as a group we are not fortunate to be getting them all to play together, and we don't use our personnel as good as we could at different stages," Brown said of the growing number of games where Ponga and Pearce are not on the field together. 

"It's not anyone's fault, it's just that they haven't got to play together much.”

The Knights were punished for an error riddled start to the game, with only a 56 per cent completion rate, helping the Tigers to a 22-4 lead early in the second half. 

Knights forward Aidan Guerra.
Knights forward Aidan Guerra. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

Brown puts it down to fundamental errors from individuals that meant Newcastle could not build any momentum. While he did not single anyone out for the turnovers, winger Ken Sio had a game to forget, putting two kick restarts out on the full and a sin-binning for repeated ruck infringements.

"We can't consistently carry blokes who turn the ball over," Brown said.

"It just makes the game too hard when people don't get the fundamentals right and ill-discipline.. it just makes the game so difficult."

Forward Aidan Guerra scored a try in the second half to get the Knights to within six points, and despite the poor first half, he says the Tigers must have felt lucky to hold on.

"You could almost see the Tigers take a sigh of relief," Guerra said.

"The way we got control of the game – we had no right really to be in that game at the end.

"It's disappointing the way we couldn't come up with it, but the signs are there, and the football is certainly in us, so we will just keep moving forward."