Knights v Dragons: Five key points
The Dragons finished with their biggest points haul of the season against a Knights side who had a particularly disappointing first half. Here are the five key points from St George Illawarra's 30-18 win in Newcastle.
50 minutes enough for the Dragons
Dragons coach Paul McGregor's message at full-time was as simple as it gets: "It was a good 50 minutes." The Red V scored five tries and produced eight line breaks in the first half against the Knights to rack up a 22-6 half-time lead. Joel Thompson's 45th-minute try was the final Dragons points of the game but considering it was the most they have scored in a game all season McGregor couldn't complain.
"I thought we played some really attractive footy in the first 50. We controlled the ruck well with our 'D', we had real intent in what we were about and then we wanted to get on the bus and go home," McGregor said.
"Wins in the NRL are hard enough to come by so we'll take positives from the really good signs we showed. We stopped playing though so we need to learn to get out of that stumble and really kick again, but all in all it was a good performance."
Ross pulls off best aerobatic try of the year
It was scrappy, it was unconventional but it was undoubtedly spectacular. Nathan Ross's effort half an hour into the game will be on the highlight reel once the Dally Ms roll around at season's end. Ross's effort in the corner to remain in the field of play while leaping over the corner post was simply amazing in what ended up being a solid 149-metre, four tackle break performance.
"Rossy continued to show he's a first grade rugby league player which is great," Knights coach Nathan Brown said post-game.
"It was the real challenge for him at the start of year, was to gain some consistency and he's really finding that which is pleasing for a player of his age. The levels he's reaching at the moment is a credit to him."
Risk reaps rewards for Dragons duo
Tyson Frizell didn't have to do much in the grand scheme of the Dragons' win but his efforts to back up just three days after his barnstorming State of Origin debut was well-received. Frizell was a late inclusion for Mike Cooper and stood tall in the middle of the paddock. Josh Dugan's elbow concerns also didn't prevent him from giving the Knights headaches despite also damaging his eardrum.
"For Tyson to dominate in a game like Origin and three days later back it up with a performance in the middle, it was really pleasing for him and the club," McGregor said.
"It was good to see the big fella (Dugan) back too. He's vital for the team and he'll get a lot from that game. I'm sure he'll continue to play well to put his name back into the Origin picture as well."
Knights' left edge in all sorts
It was a huge concern in their last-start loss to the Warriors and it continued against the Dragons, with the Red V targeting the Knights' inexperienced left edge in the opening stages of the game. St George Illawarra ran through three tries in the first 14 minutes past an edge consisting of Mitchell Barnett, Brendan Elliot and Jack Cogger – two players just three weeks into their Knights careers and an 18-year-old playmaker. Yet McGregor insisted it wasn't a target for his side.
"We were just getting into positions where we were seeing opportunities, and making sure we took them," he said. "It was just how it worked out. In general we just played to our strengths as much as anything."
What's up with Widdop's goal kicking?
Admittedly conditions weren't ideal in Newcastle but Gareth Widdop's season of conversions went from bad to worse against the Knights. Prior to Round 16, Widdop was one of two players in the game's top 15 goal kickers with a kicking percentage below 70 per cent. Widdop slumped to a 62.7 conversion rate in Newcastle after missing four goals. It could come back to haunt the Red V in the tight ones if their skipper doesn't drastically improve.