NRL 2022: Newcastle Knights defeat Canterbury Bulldogs, snap 7-game losing streak

The pressure continues to mount on Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett after Canterbury produced a woeful performance against the Knights, who ended a seven-game losing streak.

Two pieces of Kalyn Ponga magic and a steel city defensive display was enough to get the Knights home 16-6 and end a seven-game losing streak in the battle of the cellar dwellers against a woeful Bulldogs outfit.

As the evening unfolded on a wet night to kick-off Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium, it became clear it was a game that was either going to be decided by Matt Burton’s boot or a dose of Ponga magic.

Ponga, in good news for the Maroons ahead of State of Origin, came up with two decisive plays that led to Newcastle’s two tries but it was their commitment in defence that sealed the deal.

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When halfback Adam Clune darted through diabolical Bulldogs defence inside the final five minutes it was game over.

“We needed to win. How it looked, in terms of attack, didn’t matter. I just wanted to see that defensive resolve we showed,” Knights coach Adam O’Brien said.

Kalyn Ponga was strong for the Knights in their win against the Bulldogs. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Kalyn Ponga was strong for the Knights in their win against the Bulldogs. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

“With our supporters ... they can be disappointed in us but they don’t leave us. Hopefully we have made a few of them happier tonight.”

The Knights missed just two tackles in the first half, showcasing their commitment and the fact the Bulldogs threw little at them.

Canterbury had no offloads in the opening stanza, not even from competition’s offload king Tevita Pangai Junior. They were playing it safe, like a team short on confidence and wins.

The kicking of Burton was the only highlight. His towering left-foot bombs and silky grubbers caused Ponga plenty of headaches.

It was no surprise Canterbury’s only try in the first half came after Burton threaded the needle to perfection for skipper Josh Addo-Carr to swoop.

Winger Edrick Lee scored his first NRL try since 2020 courtesy of a Bradman Best offload after Ponga injected himself into the line.

The Knights skipper was going to need to do it more often to get his side over the line and he responded in style to set up Best early in the second half to break the 6-all half-time deadlock.

“I just wanted to get involved. I wouldn’t say it was my best game but I think as a team we showed up in defence,” Ponga said.

The Bulldogs were awful after the break and were lucky not to concede 30.

“It is disappointing. I sound like a broken record at the press conferences. It’s the same every week. It’s not good,” Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett said.

Edrick Lee slips past Matt Dufty to score for the Knights. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Edrick Lee slips past Matt Dufty to score for the Knights. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Daniel Saifiti was denied a try due to obstruction, Leo Thompson dropped the ball over the line and Pasami Saulo bounced it after chasing a Clune kick.

Newcastle back-rower Mitch Barnett returned from a six-week suspension to give his side more punch on the edge and Clune was solid on return from a knee injury.

NEWCASTLE GRIT

The Knights desperation in defence was epitomised by winger Dominic Young’s try saver on Addo-Carr when he pulled off a cracking cover tackle inside the final 10 minutes.

“Not many people can do that to Addo-Carr. I don’t know anyone who can do it,” O’Brien said.

The Knights, who had leaked a competition-high 242 points before the clash, showed their resolve by missing just nine tackles for the match. Daniel Saifiti, David Klemmer and Barnett were all enormous.

DOGS DIABOLICAL

The Bulldogs deserve to be last. No one expected Canterbury to challenge for the title this year but neither were they expected to be such a complete disappointment either.

Their big-game players Matt Dufty and Panga Junior fail to deliver when the game is on the line. Kyle Flanagan’s kicking in the second stanza was not up to standard and everything they touched turned to mud.

Bradman Best charges into the Bulldogs’ defence. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Bradman Best charges into the Bulldogs’ defence. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

BARNETT BARNSTORMER

Barnett had six weeks to think about how he was going to re-enter the fray and his response was class.

The Knights have missed the aggressive back-rower, who was suspended for an elbow to the head of Penrith’s Chris Smith in round three.

Barnett will join the Warriors next year after securing an early release from his Newcastle deal but he showed plenty of commitment to the cause with his barnstorming charges, offloads and rugged defence.

Originally published as NRL 2022: Newcastle Knights defeat Canterbury Bulldogs, snap 7-game losing streak

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