NRLKalyn Ponga talked up as Origin hope after dazzling performance in Knights win over Brisbane Broncos

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Mitchell Pearce says he is “as good as any young player you will ever see” with the potential to break NSW hearts at Origin level in the future.
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Darius Boyd labelled him “a special talent”.

But while there are those already suggesting Queensland coach Kevin Walters mayhave to find a placein his 17-man squad this season for Kalyn Ponga, the dynamicyoung Newcastlefullback says his sole focus is on improving his game for the Knights.

And ominously for rival clubs after his dominant performance in Saturday night’s 15-10 win over Brisbane, Ponga says he can only get better.

Sporting a cut above his right eye that required five stitches, Pongaclaimed it was his teammates who should take the credit for his outstanding early season form.

“The players around me are giving me the opportunity to play and I’m still working on bits of my game I know I can get better at,”he said.

“I’m not even thinking Origin.I just want to focus on here and what I’m doing for the Knights

“If I do well here, it might open up opportunities but I’m not searching for it. I’m not going out looking for it.”

While Knights coach Nathan Brown’s cutting return serve on rival coach Wayne Bennett after the game dominated the headlines, it was Ponga’s brilliance and the team’s outstanding defence that propelled them to their third win of the season.

The Knights led 7-0 at halftime after Ponga’s pace and dazzling footwork opened up a gap for one of the best hole runners in the NRL in Lachlan Fitzgibbon to storm over to break a 0-0 deadlock with a converted try after 32 minutes.

Pearce landed a field goal on the stroke of halftime for the seven point advantage.

They got it out to 13-0 in the second half when Pearce caught the Brisbane marker defence asleep with an inside ball for prop Daniel Saifiti to force his way over.

And while acouple of late tries to Brisbane made for some anxious moments late for the home side,they thoroughly deserved their win.

The Knights didn’t have a bad player. Winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall came up with a couple second half errors but his workload with the football more than made up for it.

Tellingly, Brisbane forced seven goal line dropouts from the Knights but failed to convert the pressure into points thanks to a lack of execution and some outstanding Newcastle defence.

Coach Brown labelled it the Knights’best win since he joined the club.

“I can’t remember a defensive performance like that,”he said.

“To only allow two tries and they had a heap of repeat sets and I didn’t think we got any 50-50 calls either.”

Pearce said Ponga’s toughness was every bit as impressive as his ability with the football.

“As a player and as a teammate, the best thing I like about him is the effort he puts in to his defence,”he said.

“For 19, I haven’t seen too many fullbacks play that tough.”

Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett lauded Pearce’s contribution.

“Pearce makes a huge difference. He was at them all night and kept them on track. If he didn’t play, they probably would have fallen apart at stages,”he said.

Try-saver: Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga rounds up a try-bound Kodi Nikorima in great cover defence on Saturday night. Ponga was again an instrumental figure in Newcastle’s gutsy 15-10 win over the Brisbane Broncos. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

Collared: Knights backrower Lachlan Firzgibbon attempts to burst through. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

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