It was the birth of a lethal combination.
The nib Newcastle Knights started the 2018 season with a spine that showcased off-season signings of Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson, Mitchell Pearce and Slade Griffin.
It was the last full game the foursome would play together.
Two from two to start last season, the spine was in red hot form.
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This spine combined for three tries, five try assists, and five line-break assists.
It was the second round of last season when the Knights travelled to Canberra off the back of a famous win at home against Manly which saw Pearce kick the winning field goal in the dying minutes of extra time.
With renewed confidence, the new spine was dominant against the Raiders in their 30-28 victory.
Ponga, all heart.
Fullback Ponga starred finishing with two-try assists and showcased his ‘Ponga Pogo’ move when he skipped and danced close to the Raiders defensive line, drew in the outside defender and popped a ball up for hard running second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon to score.
This was the first time we saw the lethal left-edge combination that Ponga and Fitzgibbon formed throughout the 2018 season.
The contest was tight throughout and with Canberra leading by two points with seven minutes remaining, it was Pearce who came up big and laid on the try which eventually won the game.
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Pearce got the ball down the right edge side and laid on the pass for the hard and straight running Sione Mata’utia.
This season, the Knights travel to Canberra in the first away game for 2019.
The Raiders will be 244kg lighter when the 2019 season starts, losing monstering prop forwards Shannon Boyd to the Gold Coast and Junior Paulo to Parramatta.
The Knights do battle with the Raiders at GIO stadium.