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Knights five-eighth Kalyn Ponga.

They did not produce the required effort when it mattered to make the big plays.

They did not play with the same authority to control the middle of the field the way they did against Cronulla a week earlier and they did not convert all the chances they created with the ball.

Yet Newcastle playmaker Kalyn Ponga saw enough positives in the 16-14 loss to Penrith at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night to be comfortable about where the Knights are headed.

"It's only early in the season so I'm not too worried," Ponga said.

"I don't know how the other boys feel, but we do know there's opportunities there to take.

"So the main thing is not to go away from what we're doing, just to keep doing it and get better at it and hopefully those opportunities will stick."

Taking a short ball from Mitchell Pearce, Ponga set up Newcastle's first try with a double cut-out pass for left winger Edrick Lee.

Match Highlights: Knights v Panthers

The 2018 RLPA Players' Champion went close to scoring one himself early in the second half when he dived at a Pearce kick.

"We're trying to work on our combination and connecting, passing the ball to each other instead of our forwards and stuff like that," Ponga said after his second game as Pearce's halves partner.

The increased defensive workload that has come with Ponga's move from fullback to five-eighth was a hot topic in the lead-up to the Penrith game but Ponga said he was up for the challenge.

"I don't mind tackling," he said.

"It does take a little bit more energy obviously, but that's what comes with playing half and I'll have to get used to that, but once I do, I'll be right there."

Ponga sends Lee over

As they did in their 14-8 victory over the Sharks in round one, the Knights rued missed scoring chances in both halves against the Panthers.

Fullback Connor Watson made an angled run from an inside pass to touch down in the fourth minute but video referee Henry Perenara disallowed it because second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon impeded Penrith prop James Tamou in the lead-up.

Lee looked certain to score a second try with 11 minutes remaining after Newcastle worked the ball to their left from a scrum win but the giant winger lost the ball over the line in Maloney's match-saving tackle.

"We probably didn't get into the game cycle for as long as we would have liked to," Ponga said.

"Our first 20 was pretty good … but in the second half, it was sort of back and forth and we didn't really control that half very well.

"I thought we created enough opportunities to win it.

Newcastle Knights players after conceding a try.
Newcastle Knights players after conceding a try. ©NRL Photos

"Obviously we didn't execute them well enough or get there to get that final touch, but we're still creating."

Much was made of the extra effort Penrith players Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and Frank Winterstein put in to create and score a try out of nothing in the 35th minute, and the similar level of desperation Maloney displayed to stop Lee with the game on the line.

Ponga said that should make for some humbling viewing at training this week but he was confident they would make amends against the Raiders in Canberra next Friday.

"That's all it takes, just a couple of efforts," he said.

"A lot of the boys will probably watch that film and be disappointed with themselves so hopefully we can be better next week."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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