Blake Green breathed new life into Newcastle’s NRL finals hopes after forming a ‘perfect couple’ with Mitchell Pearce for a 44-4 thrashing of the Wests Tigers on Saturday.
The comprehensive win simultaneously threw the Tigers into a tailspin to save their own season as the dismal display notched up their third consecutive loss.
For Green, it was the second win in as many weeks over the Tigers after arriving at the Knights from the Warriors at the start of the week.
After just one full training session with his new teammates, Green slipped easily into structures with two try-assists within the first 14 minutes.
His influence helped free up fullback Kalyn Ponga to roam the field for his most dangerous game of the season, to the delight of coach Adam O’Brien.
“There’s a reason why he’s been to so many clubs, he just gets his job done everywhere he goes,” he said of Green, who is now at his seventh NRL club.
“He’s just a really easy guy to like, Greeney. (Pearce) hasn’t had that much to do with him but already I could see them two at training this week spending a lot of time together afterwards.
“They look like the perfect couple at the moment.
“He understands his role and doesn’t overdo it.”
His experience allowed the new-look spine to click as the Knights advanced to a 24-4 halftime lead before completing a 40-point rout.
While Kurt Mann was solid at hooker, Ponga turned on his best performance of the season to score two tries as well as setting up another two.
His 194 metres and three linebreaks ripped through poor Tigers defence that did not do milestone man Chris Lawrence justice in his 250th NRL match.
In all the Knights scored eight tries with Hymel Hunt, Starford To’a, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese’ese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Phoenix Crossland also crossing over.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire was left to rue seven errors in the first half that caused most of the damage.
“I think our completion rate was around 55 per cent, and if you’re going to do that in first grade, especially when you’ve got a team that’s performing at 95 per cent, they just keep the ball,” he said.
“We were turning it over in early passages of play and it was down our end.
“They capitalised and hurt us.”
Halfback Benji Marshall, in his 250th game for the club, had a particularly difficult night as the forward pack was thoroughly outmuscled.
Their lone try was not a moment of brilliance and came just before halftime when Luciano Leilua kicked through a ball that ricocheted from Marshall’s boot to score.
The loss will come as a huge blow to the Tigers who now face a tough run in to the end of the season and sit 10th on the ladder, in danger of missing the finals.
Over the last seven rounds they will play every top four side as well as Manly, South Sydney and Gold Coast.
Already hurting, the Tigers also expect to miss Billy Walters for the rest of the season with a suspected ACL and possible MCL injury sustained late in the match.
Meanwhile, the Knights moved into sixth position on the NRL ladder despite eight starting players missing through injury.