THE Newcastle Knights, coached by former Batemans Bay Tiger Adam O'Brien, announced themselves as a serious football side at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday, by chalking up a convincing 34-18 win against the previously unbeaten Canberra Raiders.
Kalyn Ponga missed his side's epic 14-all draw with Penrith last Sunday through suspension but was in irresistible form as the Knights claimed their biggest scalp of the season.
He scored a dynamic solo try and had a hand in three others but was just one of a number of outstanding performers for Newcastle.
Centre Bradman Best added to his rapidly growing reputation with another try double, while the side's defence, just as it was against the Panthers a week ago, could hardly be faulted.
Fears the Knights might be flat after last Sunday's physical 14-all marathon against Penrith were dispelled early after they jumped out of the blocks to catch the Raiders napping in the opening two minutes.
They could hardly have scripted a better start with Best crashing over from a scrum win after a fumble from Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad at the end of the first set of the game.
Ponga's pace got him on the outside of a couple of defenders and Best's strength did the rest from close range.
The Raiders should have responded not long after when they found some space down Newcastle's right edge but centre Jarrod Croker was ankle-tapped by Ponga and his pass went over the sideline with a try going begging.
The Knights stretched the lead to 10-0 with some Ponga brilliance after 23 minutes after capitalising on a Jack Wighton dropped ball on the last tackle.
Ponga took a pass from Mitchell Pearce and put on the afterburners to storm through Wighton and Elliott Whitehead to score a brilliant solo try.
Wighton made up for a couple of errors when he finally got his side on the board with a great leap to bring down a George Williams cross-field kick to narrow the gap to 10-6.
But right on half-time, Newcastle was awarded a penalty try after centre Enari Tuala was tackled by Wighton without the footy in the Raiders in-goal.
Lee had knocked a Pearce bomb backwards into the arms of Best who came up with a stunning cross field grubber that Tuala was just about to pounce on before being taken out.
Ponga converted for a 16-6 lead at half-time.
Two tries in the opening 10 minutes of the second half to Lee after great work by Ponga and Best blew the Knights lead out to 28-6 and the Raiders were on the rack.
But just as quickly, the Raiders breathed some life into the game when they scored two of their own in the space of three minute.
Winger Nick Cotric scored off a cross-field bomb and then prop Josh Papalii steamrolled four defenders in an inspiring burst 57 minutes in narrow the gap to just 10 points.
It was all over when Best crossed for his second try in the closing seconds.