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Ponga sizzles as Knights hold off fast finishing Rabbitohs

Kalyn Ponga awoke from his attacking slumber as Newcastle narrowly withstood a South Sydney tsunami to hang on 20-18 at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.

The Rabbitohs cruelled themselves with errors for much of the contest but came alive in the final 15 minutes, scoring three tries and having another denied by the Bunker.

Ponga's three missed conversions almost proved incredibly costly.

Mark Nicholls scored in the 65th minute before Damien Cook notched a double. Newcastle defended their line grimly at the death while the Rabbitohs rode a powerful wave of momentum.

The Knights had managed just 22 points in their previous three outings and Ponga's form was questioned after he recorded zero try or line break involvements for two games straight.

The star fullback quietened his critics with a scintillating first-half touchdown - his first since round four - as well as setting up Bradman Best with a quality grubber.

Halfback Mitchell Pearce's kicking game was strong as he helped lift Newcastle into the top four in back-rower Aidan Guerra's 200th NRL appearance.

The Rabbitohs missed Latrell Mitchell (suspension) and Campbell Graham (facial fracture), but completing only 72 percent of their sets hurt badly.

Debutant winger Jaxson Paulo set up Damien Cook's second try with a kick in a glimpse of his talent.

Re-live the final minutes of Rabbitohs-Knights

The Knights were without Daniel Saifiti (knee) but welcomed back Connor Watson, Mitch Barnett and Sione Mata'utia from the casualty ward.

Both sides had early chances, but Newcastle capitalised when teenager Best belied his inexperience to assist winger Enari Tuala with a flick, using the strength and skill of a seasoned centre.

Ponga beats Walker on the outside

Rabbitohs fans loudly disapproved that a forward pass wasn't ruled. Pearce shut them up when he dug into the line, copping a whack for his troubles, and linked with hard-running halves partner Kurt Mann to extend the lead.

Chants of "Newcastle!" reverberated after Pearce piled on the pressure in the set after points by kicking a 40-20. An error let South Sydney off.

Newcastle continued to threaten, routinely slipping out of tackles, but the scoreboard didn't quite reflect their dominance with 63 percent of possession after 25 minutes.

Seeing Pearce pull the strings for the Knights, Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds produced a 40-20 of his own to get his team on the attack. Again, their handling betrayed them.

Ponga then got on the score-sheet in brilliant fashion, burning Cody Walker on the outside and zipping away in the 28th minute.

A glut of six-again calls and penalties gave South Sydney every hope of ending the half with a try. It looked like they would when they created a massive right-edge overlap, but winger Corey Allan couldn't control a low, long pass.

Ponga's grubber for Best kept Newcastle on the front foot and the No.1 added a penalty goal in the 58th minute to make it 20-0.

After holding firm for so long, the Knights cracked in soft fashion when bench prop Nicholls charged across for his first try as a Rabbitoh.

Cook double gets the Rabbitohs to within two

South Sydney quickly added a second four-pointer when Cook scampered over from dummy half following an Alex Johnston line break.

Suddenly the Rabbitohs had all the running and they appeared to have closed the gap further when Tom Burgess forced his way into the in-goal, only for the Bunker to deem the prop had lost the ball.

They weren't to be denied in the 73rd minute, however, as Cook won the race to a well-weighted in-field kick from Paulo.

It seemed inevitable that South Sydney would claim a fourth to win the match but the Knights scrapped hard to turn them away and secure the two competition points.