Pearce, Ponga power Knights past Warriors
Mitchell Pearce has produced another inspirational captain's knock to lead Newcastle to a comprehensive and crucial 36-18 victory over the Warriors.
The polarising skipper played a hand in four of the Knights' five tries with a superb all-round performance to guide his team to back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Coming on the back of Pearce's man-of-the-match effort in last week's win over Parramatta, Pearce scored the opening try and then set up Shaun Kenny-Dowall's four-pointer in the first half.
And when the match was on the line in the second half he came up with the big plays, helping to lay on another two tries to secure a vital win.
It pushes the Knights to six competition points while the Warriors slumped to a fourth-straight defeat that leaves their finals hopes on life support.
PEARCE THE HERO
He copped plenty for his form to start the season. But over the past three weeks Pearce's leadership has helped resurrect Newcastle's season.
Even in the round six loss to Gold Coast coach Nathan Brown praised Pearce's performance, while the former Rooster was the best on field against the Eels.
And his performance against the Warriors was equally good.
Pearce scored the opening try with a determined show-and-go before Shaun Kenny-Dowall attacked a Pearce bomb to steal the ball from Ken Maumalo that helped the Knights to a 16-12 half-time lead.
The Warriors fought back in the second half when Maumalo touched down for his second try to level the scores at 18-all after 51 minutes.
Sione Mata'utia then scored to put the Knights back in front before Pearce stepped up to put the game to bed.
A pinpoint bomb resulted in another try for Hymel Hunt before Pearce put Kalyn Ponga through a hole and the fullback's blinding speed did the rest.
PONGA V RTS
They finished one-two in the Dally M Medal count last year and going into this game the most anticipated match-up was the showdown between Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ponga.
The Warriors skipper started strong, laying on an early touchdown for young Patrick Herbert which again highlighted the ever present danger he is.
Ponga's first half lacked opportunity and while he had limited chances in the second half his late try was a reminder of his amazing skills and blinding speed.
Pearce opened up the hole with a clever inside ball and as Ponga went through Tuivasa-Sheck loomed as the last line.
But RTS had no hope as Ponga turned on the after-burners, scooting past his rival on the outside to score a magnificent try.
It's the third week in a row now Ponga has crossed as his confidence grows.
BIG KLEM FIRES
David Klemmer has had a tough initiation at Newcastle but the big prop is certainly holding up his end of the bargain with his consistent effort.
Klemmer produced another strong first stint, charging for 95m before the break.
He finished the match with 195m from 18 runs, which was the most made by any forward.
Klemmer now gets the chance to take on his former club Canterbury next week in Magic Round in Brisbane.
It's worth noting Klemmer has been averaging 175m per game this season.
Kenny-Dowall also had a terrific game, running for 190m and his first half try was a reward for the effort and energy he showed all game.
WARRIORS ON LIFE SUPPORT
We're only eight rounds in but the Warriors' season is already on dangerous ground.
They had their chances to win this game but too many errors at crucial times just ruined any hope.
The Warriors were coming off three straight defeats and really needed to bounce back after last week's luckless loss to Melbourne.
They are still stuck on four competition points and it is going to be a tough road back to make the playoffs from here.
The Warriors play St George Illawarra in Magic Round.
NEWCASTLE 36 (H Hunt S Kenny-Dowall S Mata'utia M Pearce K Ponga tries K Ponga 8 goals) bt NZ WARRIORS 18 (K Maumalo 2 P Herbert tries C Harris-Tavita 3 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium