BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Kalyn Ponga has bagged a try in his Newcastle debut with the Knights scoring on full-time to claim a 26-22 win over the Melbourne Storm at an empty AAMI Park.
It may have been played behind closed doors but that didn’t stop Knights coach Nathan Brown rolling out a near full-strength outfit which included new recruits Mitchell Pearce, Aidan Guerra, Connor Watson, Jacob Lillyman and Ponga.
Melbourne mentor Craig Bellamy will just be happy the hitout is out of the way as his team prepares for a World Club Challenge showdown against the Leeds Rhinos.
The Storm led after just eight minutes when cult hero Dale Finucane crashed over under the sticks but the Knights were quick to hit back when Lachlan Fitzgibbon crossed for his team’s first five minutes later.
Although just the very first trial of the season, Brown would be happy with Newcastle’s resilience on their own line holding out the Storm in consecutive sets to begin the second quarter.
In a sign of what could be to come for long suffering Knights supporters, halfback Pearce and Ponga combined when Pearce grubber kicked behind the Melbourne line with Ponga winning the race for the footy.
The half would end frantically with both sides crossing the chalk for four pointers.
Cameron Munster put reports of a rift within the Storm camp to bed with a lovely kick for prop Tim Glasby before veteran Knight Ken Sio dived over in the corner on the siren to hand the novacastrians a 16-10 lead at the main break.
Grubber kicks were proving the order of the day with the Knights extending their lead to 12 when Jamie Buhrer scored after Brock Lamb toed the ball through.
With both sides battling fatigue, the 2017 wooden spooners handed the 2017 premiers a try on a platter when Kenny Bromwich skipped away for a try on the 3rd quarter siren.
The Storm got another one via a converted Justin Olam try. The Papua New Guinean scooped up a loose ball, shrugged away from three defenders and planted the ball to level it at 22.
Knights winger Thomas Cronan then won the match for the visitors with a try on the hooter.
Knights 26 (Fitzgibbon, Ponga, Sio, Buhrer, Cronan, G: Ponga 2/3, Lamb 1/2) beat Storm 22 (Finucane, Glasby, K Bromwich, Olam, G: Munster 3/4) at AAMI Park.