Dominant first half sets up Dragons win
A massive first 40 minutes from the St George Illawarra Dragons has seen them score their most points in a game this season in their 30-18 win over the Newcastle Knights on Saturday afternoon.
While they were kept relatively quiet in the second stanza – restricted to eight points – their five tries in the first half means the Red V re-enter the NRL Telstra Premiership's top eight for the time being.
Dragons halves Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall had their best game of the season together by collectively producing three try assists.
Only Widdop's goal kicking proved the lowlight for the Dragons with three from seven attempts denying his side a hugely improved points differential.
It wouldn't matter in the end with the Dragons getting the show on the road within two minutes when Kalifa Faifai Loa's efforts capped off a 40-metre backline movement by the Dragons.
Jacob Host was in on the action for his first NRL try when he crossed in the ninth minute by punching his way through fleeting Knights defence.
The Dragons continued their dominance of the Knights' left edge six minutes later when Euan Aitken caught out Mitch Barnett and Brendan Elliot in defence.
There'd be some temporary joy for the Knights half an hour in when Nathan Ross pulled off the best aerobatic try of the season, but the Dragons hit back hard in the 35th minute when a three-man cut-out from Benji Marshall eventually came up trumps for Tim Lafai.
Marshall scored one of his own with 20 seconds remaining in the first half when he stepped his way past Knights back-rower Jacob Saifiti to secure the Dragons a 22-6 half-time lead.
After an altercation with Elliot to begin the second half – and then rewarded a penalty as a result in bizarre circumstances – Joel Thompson crossed for his first try of the season in the 45th minute.
After a scoreless 20 minute period, the Knights finally returned to the scoresheet when a Robbie Rochow offload and Dane Gagai grubber landed in the hands of Sione Mata'utia.
Barnett scored his first NRL try with seven minutes remaining by eventually forcing the ball on to the white stripe but by then it was too little too late for the Knights despite outscoring their opponents 12-8 in the second half.
The decision to send Ross to the sin bin in the final two minutes for a professional foul allowed Widdop to kick the Dragons ahead a further two points and secure the 12-point win.
St George Illawarra Dragons 30 (Kalifa Faifai Loa, Jacob Host, Euan Aitken, Benji Marshall, Joel Thompson, Tim Lafai tries; Gareth Widdop 3 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 18 (Nathan Ross, Sione Mata'utia, Mitchell Barnett tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 13,777. Half-time: Dragons 22-6.