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Newcastle captain Kalyn Ponga hopes a change of scenery will be a catalyst for a change of fortunes after the Knights were humiliated 50-2 by Melbourne at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.

Just seven days after Parramatta pummelled them 39-2, the Knights went try-less on their own ground for the second game in a row as the Storm cruised to an 11th successive victory over Newcastle in a streak stretching back to 2015.

Unbeaten leaders after two rounds, Newcastle are now last on points differential (-114) after their worst ever loss under coach Adam O’Brien, and sixth straight since the distant memory of beating Wests Tigers 26-4 on March 20.

The Storm (nine) and Eels (six) have combined for 15 tries against the Knights in the past two Sundays, and after a 30-6 loss to Manly on April 7, Newcastle have now been outscored by a collective 119-10 in their past three home games, managing just one try of their own.

Ponga hopes back-to-back away games against the Cowboys in Townsville next Saturday night and Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium on May 13 to kick off Magic Round will allow the Knights to regroup.

Based on the Sunshine Coast in a COVID bubble in the second half of last season, the Knights strung together five straight wins to make a successful late charge to sneak into the top eight.

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“What we had to go through last year, I enjoyed that time being with the team, being in that environment, and I think that brought the best out of us,” Ponga told reporters after the game.

“So I’m looking forward to going away and working hard. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this, that’s working hard and staying together.”

Remarkably, Melbourne (120 points) have scored more points in their past two games than Newcastle (92) have in eight matches this season. To further highlight Newcastle’s plight, Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen (115) has scored 23 more points than the Knights this year.

After Jake Clifford’s kick-off went out on the full on Sunday, the Knights had to wait more than 10 minutes for their first attacking set against the Storm and by that stage trailed 10-0.

Melbourne had to settle for a 26-2 half-time lead after Ponga’s puzzling decision to give Clifford a penalty kick at goal in the final seconds of the first half, which prompted an almost pitying cheer from the crowd of 15,895.

The Knights were again on the back foot from the opening play of the second half after Ponga and Leo Thompson allowed Melbourne’s kick-off to go dead in-goal.

Storm winger Xavier Coates punished the error with his third try for a 30-2 lead just three minutes later.

“That was the disappointing part of it,” Ponga said.

“I woke up today and I was thinking I’m grateful to do this in front of the people we get to [play in front of], then to put that effort out there, that’s really what hurt me, but we love our fans.

“For us, we’ve got to work hard, we’ve just got to work hard and stick together. That’s what this city is about – working hard and sticking together – and that’s what we want to do.”

Match Highlights: Knights v Storm

O’Brien pointed to the absence of seven regular first-graders because of injury or suspension as a significant factor in Newcastle’s slump, and loss of confidence, but did not offer that as an excuse for the fundamental errors they produced against the Storm.

“We don’t want people’s sympathy – we don’t want to be kicked, unnecessarily – but we don’t want sympathy. We’ll get together and we’ll fight it,” O’Brien said.

“… We’re not looking at ladders. I stopped looking at that for our feelgood or [to] make ourselves feel better a while ago now.”

Mitch Barnett will return from suspension against the Bulldogs and O’Brien expects to have injured senior players Kurt Mann, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Dane Gagai, Hymel Hunt and Jayden Brailey, and new signing Anthony Milford, available for selection in the next month.

“So the sun will shine again on this team in terms of some experience coming back, and I need to be reminded of that sometimes,” O’Brien said.

“I can be hard on some young guys, and they need to learn, and learning is playing NRL games.

“I’ve got to coach just as hard when we’re winning and I’ve got to coach just as hard when we’re losing and when we’re in a slump, so it will be rewarding when we come out of this and we fight our way out.

“It challenges you as a person and as a coach but it challenges these guys first and foremost. They put up with a hell of a lot more than I do.”

O’Brien, who spent 11 seasons learning his trade on Craig Bellamy’s coaching staff at Melbourne earlier in his career, found support from his former Storm mentor.

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“I’m not quite sure what to say, to be quite honest, but we’ll have a chat during the week at some stage – I’m not quite sure when,” Bellamy said.

“But obviously he’s doing it a bit tough at the moment – the whole team and the club are doing it tough – but the one thing Newcastle has always been famous for, it’s a tough town and they always fight their way out of the difficulties they’re in, and I can’t see the Knights being any different.

“All I can go on is what he did at our club, and he was magnificent for our club. His work ethic and his knowledge and how he worked with the players was second to none, so he’s an outstanding coach.”

Acknowledgement of Country

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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