Knights slay Dragons as Pearce enters Origin frame
SOME of you won't like this, but Mitchell Pearce is back in the NSW Origin debate.
Undoubtedly the most polarising Blues player ever - Pearce hasn't won an Origin series in seven attempts - the Newcastle halfback has suddenly catapulted himself back into discussions after he and Kalyn Ponga smashed up St George Illawarra in Mudgee on Sunday afternoon.
Last representing NSW in 2017, Pearce scored one try, had a hand in four more, even kicked a 35m field goal, while teammate Ponga was equalling outstanding, scoring two, kicking eight goals and continually thrilling the crowd of 9267 - a ground record for the bush town.
While Pearce has a terrible, and oft debated, record at Origin level, winning just five of 18 appearances, the 30-year-old has been in outstanding form over the past month as Newcastle have gone on a run of four straight wins.
In fact, in all the Knights most recent wins against Canterbury, the Warriors and Parramatta, the halfback has polled 3 Dally M points.
Only last week, Blues coach Brad Fittler confirmed Pearce was back in discussions for the halfback spot, along with incumbent Nathan Cleary and South Sydney's Adam Reynolds.
Also working in Pearce's favour is the fact he played with several Blues players during his time at the Roosters, including likely five-eighth Luke Keary.
Kalyn Ponga's headgear is quickly becoming the most sought-after piece of NRL merchandise.
Outstanding for the Knights in Mudgee, the 21-year-old finished the game with what is quickly becoming his second best move outside the sidestep - jogging to the sideline and handing his headgear to a lucky, young fan.
After just 14 minutes, Ponga scored an outstanding solo try where he covered some 30m in a blink, beating five Dragons defenders as he went. Then 12 minutes from the break the Knights No.1 was at it again, splitting two defenders, pushing through Matt Dufty and, after falling, then scrambling his way across the stripe.
What do you say about St George Illawarra in this one? Apart from conceding 44 points, the Red V also only scored their 12 points when Knights five-eighth Kurt Mann was sin binned for repeat offences.
Elsewhere, the battling Dragons sent a kick off out on the full, kicked dead more than once and were continually turned inside out by the Knights attack.
Want to know the value of bringing NRL games west?
According to Mudgee mayor Des Kennedy, junior participation numbers have skyrocketed in the two years since his town started hosting both the annual Charity Shield and a Dragons round game.
"And those numbers aren't a coincidence," Kennedy said. "Since we've started getting regular NRL games out here, junior registration numbers have increased dramatically.
"The impact is huge because, not only does the town benefit, but the code benefits. Bringing NRL games to Mudgee increases participation numbers and gets more children and families involved with the game."
NEWCASTLE 45 (K Ponga 2 T Glasby S Kenny-Dowall K Mann M Pearce C Watson tries K Ponga 8 goals M Pearce field goal) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 12 (Z Lomax T Sims tries J Field 2 goals) at Glen Willow Stadium. Referee: GerardSutton, Liam Kennedy. Crowd: 9,267