Dragons v Knights: Five key points
While the Knights did their best to slay the Dragons on a beautiful afternoon at Jubilee Oval, the Novocastrians had no answers for St George Illawarra's second-half fight back in their eventual 46-24 win, their first in seven games.
Dragons put losing streak to bed
It's been a long time coming but the Dragons finally managed to get their season back on track following their 22-point win over the Knights.
Winning for the first time since Round 12 – coincidentally their last game at Kogarah – Dragons coach Paul McGregor said a win was the only acceptable result against Newcastle.
"When you lose it becomes contagious. You lose a little bit of belief and confidence with one another," he said. "We hadn't been far away in a lot of games. It was about getting the 'W' and we did that. For me, winning is a bit like losing, it becomes contagious."
An improved Knights performance not enough
After a dramatic week in the Hunter where coach Rick Stone was sacked and club legend Danny Buderus was ushered in to take control for the final six games of the season, the Knights were simply outplayed in the second half.
Coming into the sheds up 20-14 at half-time after fighting back from 12-0 down, Newcastle lacked the required possession in the final 40 and were blasted into submission – dominated 32-4 in the second half by the Red V.
"The first half was a real arm wrestle and I was proud of the way we fought our way back into it," Knights captain Kurt Gidley said post-game. "The energy and talk was really good at half-time but we just didn't have it in the second half – we didn't get out of our own half it felt like."
When the Dragons are on, watch out!
While they worryingly have only scored over 20 points five times this season, when the Dragons do manage to get their attack on song they do so in a big way.
With Widdop – his 22-point performance his second consecutive nine goal (with 100 per cent accuracy) haul at Kogarah – steering the ship, coach McGregor said the most pleasing aspect of the win was his team's effort to reclaim the game after half-time.
"We've had an inability to score points in the past," he said. "To score 32 points against any NRL side in the second half is very good. I'm very happy with that."
Knights rookies' learning curve
Nathan Ross and Lachlan Fitzgibbon made their debuts on Sunday, while young back-up half Jaelen Feeney warmed up with the first grade team for the first time – in a sure-tell sign coach Buderus is looking to implement a youth policy for the remainder of the season.
Ultimately smashed by game's end, Buderus was confident the foundation they built against the Red V will only breed positives across their remaining five 2015 fixtures.
"We're looking to next year as well, and we're talking the year after that. Some of these guys will be starting to hit their straps then. Jakey Mamo is going to back himself all the time and Joe Tapine needs to work hard in pushing his body," Buderus said post-game.
"Nathan Ross did really well on his debut. Lachie Fitzgibbon worked out what it's like to play in the top grade so my job is to keep believing in these guys and give them a run in first grade."
Dugan plays through adversity
After making his debut for Australia and playing his first full series with New South Wales this year, Josh Dugan managed to overcome a few niggling injuries to stand tall by game's end with 208 metres and two tries against Newcastle.
Don't think for a second though that McGregor will rest him at any point leading into the semi-finals – considering the Dragons have only just re-entered the top eight after a few weeks out of it.
"He's carrying after-effect of Origin and playing regular football," McGregor said. "The affects are the same as other players with his ability who play at the highest level.
"It's the first time Josh has really had to do that so it's just about managing him himself right and getting ready each week."