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Knights triumph over Wests Tigers in free-flowing match

Wests Tigers have gone down 42-24 to the Newcastle Knights in a free-flowing contest at Leichhardt Oval that saw 12 tries scored.

There was plenty to like in attack for both sides with a number of sharp attacking moves leading to points, but defence was a problem throughout the contest as neither side managed to gain true ascendency over the other.

In the end, it was the Knights who started fastest and finished strongest — emerging from the suburban ground with their perfect start to the season in tact.

Having not tasted victory at Leichhardt Oval against Wests Tigers, it was the visitors who got the match off to the perfect start when Edrick Lee climbed highest to knock down a Mitchell Pearce kick for Enari Tuala to score.

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The visitors would double their advantage soon after when a clever kick in behind from Jayden Brailey found space for Mitch Barnett to be awarded a penalty try following Josh Reynolds' indiscretion in the build-up.

Kalyn Ponga would convert to give Newcastle an early 10-0 lead.

A hat-trick hero the last time the two sides met, it was David Nofoaluma who bailed Wests Tigers out of another defensive jam in the 15th minute, with the winger picking off a cut-out pass from Ponga to race 90m and score.

Benji Marshall added the extras to cut the lead to 10-6.

After a positional reshuffle that saw Adam Doueihi shift to fullback, Robert Jennings to the centres and Corey Thompson to the wing, Wests Tigers almost hit back through Reynolds but the playmaker was stopped just short by Tim Glasby. The tackle would prove pivotal in the contest too, with Pearce sending the Knights through the line again for Kurt Mann to restore the visitors' two-try lead.

With just three minutes remaining in the half, Ponga would put the Knights up by 12 when he opted to take the two from in front — a decision that proved costly as it allowed the hosts enough time to hit back with one final set in the half, with Reynolds stepping his way through the line to put Thompson over.

Despite an overall scrappy first half, Michael Maguire's men were within touching distance of the visitors and trailed by just six points at the break.

After their first half success, Newcastle would start the second half with an eery similarity as Lee climbed above Nofoaluma to pull down a Pearce kick.

Ponga's missed conversion would keep the hosts in the contest at 22-12 as a see-sawing encounter would continue at Leichhardt Oval.

Reynolds and Ponga traded tries in the space of two minutes for their respective sides, before Luciano Leilua grabbed his second try in as many weeks off a short ball from Marshall to cut the lead to just two with 20 minutes still remaining.

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There was no stopping the points as Pearce again helped the visitors continue their attacking ways — first taking on the line to score his first try of the year, before kicking through for Tuala moments later to put the icing on the cake.

Ponga's sharp shooting in windy conditions would put the Knights up 38-24 and the two points in the bag, before a late Connor Watson try after a coming together between two sides saw the visitors home by 18 points in the end.

Wests Tigers will look to hit back next week when they take on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in their Round 3 clash at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Newcastle Knights 42 (Tuala 2, Barnett, Mann, Lee, Ponga, Pearce, Watson tries; Ponga 4/8 goals) def. Wests Tigers 24 (Nofoaluma, Thompson, Reynolds, L.Leilua tries; Marshall 4/4 goals) at Leichhardt Oval