The Ponga party took center stage in the first battle between the Brayley siblings as the Newcastle Knights won 26-22 against the Cronulla Sharks in front of 17,039 fans in the hunter.
Friday's marquee match was dubbed the battle of the star fullbacks but Kalyn Ponga and William Kennedy almost stole the show in a see-sawing battle in the Hunter. Ponga took the chocolates with the match winner for Newcastle in a pulsating contest.
Knights fullback Ponga dealt with an stomach virus but he left the Sharks with a headache after full-time. Ponga scored twice including the match-winner and was involved in the Knights three other tries to put a tough stretch behind the novacastrains with a stirring win.
Thurst into the game in the early exchanges after Hymel Hunt's injury. Interchange forward Bordie Jones typified the effort from the Knights tonight. He cleaned up several attacking kicks from the Sharks and got a well deserved four pointer. Coach Adam O'Brien will be delighted to be able to sing the song after three straight defeats which had them on the brink of their season being in danger.
It had been a turbulent week for the Sharks with the John Morris saga but there was plenty to enjoy from the shire side tonight. William Kennedy and Matt Moylan ran the show in attack and Kennedy showed off his passing skills to match it with his fullback opposite him. Unfortunately, it was another close loss for Josh Hannay in his first game as Sharks interim boss.
Trailing by eight at one point, the Sharks dominated the second half. They completed every set which saw them overturn the deficit through Mawene Hiroti, makeshift winger Connor Tracey and the returning Briton Nikora combined with a superb conversion from Chad Townsend had them ahead 22-20.
For the majority of the contest though, the Knights threatened to bust open the contest. Ponga with some silky touches to put Mitch Barnett after the fullback had opened the scoring himself with a sweep play. Kurt Mann showed some grit to beat the chasing Sharks back to have them up 14-6 at the break.
When Ponga put Jones across for their fourth to make it 20-16, it seemed like the home side were strolling to the win tonight. Sharks showed heart to stay in the contest and push the Knights but the home side through their star fullback got their third win of the season.
The only blight for Ponga all night was his mis-timed leap which gave the Sharks their opening four-pointer through Jesse Ramien. Otherwise, Ponga deserved his Man of the Match award in the win.