The new-look Newcastle Knights kicked off the 2018 season with a bang, holding their nerve under pressure to claim a thrilling 19-18 golden point victory over the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in front of more than 23,500 fans on Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Newcastle’s win was the perfect start for key off-season signings Mitchell Pearce, Kayln Ponga, Aidan Guerra, Tautau Moga and Herman Ese’Ese.
Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans calmly booted a clutch penalty goal to lock it up at 18-all three minutes from full-time before Pearce rose to the occasion with a match-winning field goal deep into extra time.
It took just three minutes for Newcastle’s prized newcomer Ponga to bring the crowd to its feet when he dragged two defenders over the line for the game’s opening try.
Manly swiftly locked it up at 6-6 with winger Jorge Taufua’s try before former Melbourne back-up hooker Slade Griffin put the Knights back in front 12-6 when he crashed over seven minutes from half-time.
The visitors had the final say of the half, with crafty hooker Apisai Koroisau sending towering back-rower Shaun Lane over beside the posts to make it 12-all at the break.
Manly grabbed their first lead at 16-12 when centre Brian Kelly crossed out wide 11 minutes into the second half, but the Knights didn’t flinch, forging ahead 18-16 with Lachlan Fitzgibbon’s converted try 19 minutes from full-time.