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Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce.

He got knocked down, but he got up again.

But Newcastle's forwards want to do a better job of protecting captain and primary kicker Mitchell Pearce than they did in their 13-12 loss to the Dragons at McDonald Jones Stadium last Sunday.

Pearce was hurried, harassed and occasionally hit by St George Illawarra's kick-chase team, and Newcastle back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon said they had to take better care of their skipper when they host Manly-Warringah on Saturday.

Former Knights enforcer Tariq Sims led the charge for the Dragons and, though he was eventually penalised for late, high contact in the 62nd minute, his relentless pressure had the desired effect.

Newcastle pack leader David Klemmer took matters into his own hands, squaring off with Sims as tempers frayed, before Kalyn Ponga kicked the subsequent penalty goal to level the scores at 12-12.

"It's probably an area where we can get better at to try to protect 'Junior' and help his kicks land in better positions," Fitzgibbon told reporters in Newcastle after the team's video review on Tuesday.

"Tariq Sims is an animal at times and he makes no secret he likes to put good kick-pressure on kickers, and he's made a name for himself doing that. He's one of the best in the game doing that.

"We need to identify when there's players such as Tariq in teams that like to kick-pressure our halves and what we can do to try to rectify that sort of situation."

St George Illawarra forward Tariq Sims hits Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce.
St George Illawarra forward Tariq Sims hits Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

According to Stats, Pearce kicked 18 times in general play against the Dragons, was hit four times – three by Sims and once by James Graham – and there was incidental contact on five other occasions. He was not touched on any of his three unsuccessful field-goal attempts. (see list below)

Newcastle lock Mitch Barnett, who has been named on the bench for the game against Manly, said Pearce prefers to have some leg room when he kicks but stressed the Knights forwards could do more to help him in the ruck and by being more aggressive with their own kick pressure.

"Yes and no. Junior likes us out of his way so it gives him a bit more space to kick in," Barnett told reporters before training on Wednesday.

"But we can definitely do a bit better by giving him quick play-the-balls, so they're retreating and not coming as hard, so we need to get a few more wins there.

"Look, if they're going to do that to him, we need to return serve – all within the guidelines of the game. We don't want to go too far with it, but we definitely need to pick up our kick pressure."

David Klemmer reacts to Tariq Sims' challenge on Mitchell Pearce.
David Klemmer reacts to Tariq Sims' challenge on Mitchell Pearce. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

Pressuring Pearce: a timeline

2nd min: long kick downfield, light contact from defence.

4th min: bombs from 40m out, not touched.

13th min: bombs from halfway, half-grabbed by Jacob Host but stays on his feet.

17th min: clearing kick from Newcastle 40m line, knocked over forcefully by Tariq Sims as he kicks.

19th min: bombs from 40m out, not touched.

21st min: clearing kick about 35m from Newcastle line, knocked over forcefully by James Graham.

23rd min: bombs from just inside Dragons' half, tackled forcefully by Tariq Sims.

34th min: punt from halfway, not touched.

36th min: low, driving kick from halfway, not touched.

41st min: bombs from 40m out, contact as he kicks but stays on his feet.

47th min: clearing kick 30m from Newcastle line, not touched.

58th min: bombs from just inside Dragons' half, grabbed after kicking but stays on his feet.

60th min: bombs 40m out, not touched.

62nd min: driving kick 40m out, Tariq Sims makes late, high contact and knocks him over, starting fracas with David Klemmer. Knights awarded penalty down-field, Ponga kicks goal.

68th min: bear-hugged by James Graham after kicking and wrestled to the ground.

76th min: bombs from just inside Knights' half, minimal contact from defence.

81st min: bombs from halfway, not touched.

87th min: receives ball mid-field after several rushed passes, kicks from well behind line, not touched.

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