Dragons snap seven-game losing run
The Dragons have breathed fire back into their season after a second-half revival helped them sink Newcastle 46-24, to finally break their record seven-game losing streak.
Despite conceding 20 first-half points – the most at their spiritual Kogarah ground since Round 16, 2005 – the Dragons responded by scoring four second-half tries to re-enter the Telstra Premiership top eight after 21 rounds.
Speaking after the game, Dragons coach Paul McGreor said he was content with his side's efforts.
"To come back and score 32 points to four in the second half was very pleasing," McGregor said.
"Ding dong the witch is dead, so to speak."
After sacking former coach Rick Stone on Monday, the Knights looked the better team in the opening half under interim coach Danny Buderus though failed to maintain the tenacity for the entire 80 minutes.
"The first half was fun," Buderus said following the match.
"We were 12-0 down and lost our strike front-rower, and I was blooding a couple of guys off the bench that were going to play in the middle like Joe Tapine and Lachie Fitzgibbon so I thought straight away it was going to be a little bit of a tough challenge ahead."
The Dragons started as they finished and were in within the first three minutes when an inch-perfect Benji Marshall cross-field kick landed perfectly into the hands of fullback Josh Dugan – who jumped above at least three ball-watching Knights to score.
The Dragons heaped further punishment when Mitch Rein scored in the ninth minute after capitalising from a break from back-rower Joel Thompson and interference from Newcastle winger Jake Mamo.
Losing Kade Snowden to concussion for the game after he copped a high shot from Lesson Ah Mau after 10 minutes, the Knights managed to post points when a nice right-side shift was finished off by lock Jeremy Smith who offloaded in the 13th minute for captain Kurt Gidley to score while hooker Adam Clydsdale's try four minutes later equalled the ledger.
Poor passing from Benji Marshall allowed Knights five-eighth Carlos Tuimavave to run half the field before being chased down by Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop. From there, Newcastle spread it wide immediately for Mamo to cross on the other side of the field in the 23rd minute.
Knights debutant Nathan Ross scored next in the 31st minute when a Clint Newton offload and Joe Tapine bat-on to centre Sione Mata'utia helped guide the 26-year-old – the second oldest debutant in the competition in 2015 – over for his first ever NRL try.
Finally looking to have wrestled some momentum back, the Dragons earned the ire of their fans when Widdop kicked a penalty goal to close out the half instead of capitalising on the tired Knights defence. They were cheering however when Widdop stormed over in the 45th minute to kick off the second half.
Widdop's conversion helped equal the ledger once again while another penalty conversion in the very next set saw the Red V regain the lead in the 49th minute.
Extending their lead to eight, Widdop was at it again when his magical ball saw Tyson Frizell bust through in the 54th minute leaving only Ross for him to beat. The try however wouldn't have been made possible if not for some handy lead up work from Ah Mau who made a 30 metre break just seconds earlier.
While utility Tyler Randell broke through the Red V defence and ran past Dugan in the 58th minute to score a runaway 40-metre try before Mamo was denied his second try soon after, the Dragons scored one of the best tries of the season when a Marshall kick led to a try to the man himself.
With Widdop batting back his kick 20 metres, Marshall reclaimed the ball to race away down the sideline. Dummying to winger Jason Nightingale, Marshall threw it to Widdop who passed it on to Rein. The hooker then threw the ball over his head for Marshall to regather and score in the 66th minute.
From there the Dragons scored a contentious try through Will Matthews in the 70th minute despite looking to have dropped a ricocheting Widdop grubber, while Dugan's second of the match in the final minute capped off a 22-point Red V victory.
St George Illawarra Dragons 46 (Josh Dugan 2, Mitch Rein, Gareth Widdop, Tyson Frizell, Benji Marshall, Will Matthews tries; Gareth Widdop 9 Goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 24 (Kurt Gidley, Adam Clydsdale, Jake Mamo, Nathan Ross, Tyler Randell Tries; Tyrone Roberts 2 Goals) at Jubilee Oval. Crowd: 10,236. Half-time: Knights 20-14. On Report: Lesson Ah Mau (Dragons).