Pearce dominates Dragons in Origin audition

Pearce barked orders, pointed fingers and placed pinpoint kick after pinpoint kick in what was a superb Origin audition.

His traits as a playmaker would perfectly complement the way Luke Keary or Cody Walker thrive when playing freestyle football.

If Fittler needs to see how that combination may work, he doesn’t have to look any further than Pearce’s combination with Ponga.

They may not have clicked as a halves combination but as a fullback Ponga seems to know where and when Pearce wants him at all times.

He scored two of Newcastle’s four first-half tries — before being denied another in the second half — as Pearce put the ball on a platter for anyone willing to run a dangerous line.

Big games from David Klemmer — who had 124 metres gained from 10 runs when the half-time siren rang out — and Tim Glasby set the platform through the middle of the field but Pearce and Ponga were the polish.

Their combination is one of the best — if not the best — in the NRL right now, with their games so complementary of one another.

Pearce takes the ball right to the defensive line, drawing hits and creating space for those around him.

When those around him have the amount of acceleration Ponga boasts, Newcastle look close to unstoppable.

That’s how Dragons fullback Matt Dufty must have felt in the first half, anyway, as Ponga twice stepped past him and left him clutching at thin air.


But the 45-12 win was more than just an Origin audition from Pearce and a masterclass from Ponga.

As the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Storm have cleared out from the remainder of the competition in recent weeks, the search for the next NRL contender has produced few suitors.

The number of stars Cronulla will welcome back in the coming weeks has seen their name thrown into the mix while the Raiders have earned their fair share of mentions and the Dragons’ hot start to the season has caught the eye as well.

But the best win of Newcastle’s season — their fourth in succession — has stamped the Knights as a team with the weapons required to be a challenger.

They have hit top gear at an untimely point in the season, however.

With Origin around the corner, both Ponga and Klemmer will be in and out of the team for the next six weeks.

The way Pearce is playing, they may be without their chief playmaker, too.

Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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