Matt Frawley shines, Nathan Ross amazes and Dane Gagai sizzles as the Bulldogs gold on for exciting 22-12 win over Newcastle. Here are five key points from McDonald Jones Stadium.
Frawley presses his claims for starting berth
Having played a starring role for the Bulldogs on debut last week, Matt Frawley proved his strong showing against the Broncos wasn't a fluke with an equally impressive display against the Knights. The rookie playmaker came on late in the first half to replace Brad Abbey (concussion) and made an immediate impact with an individual try from the opening set of the second stanza to give his side the lead. While it was his kicking game that did the damage last week, Frawley showed he can be just as effective with his hands as he sent Josh Morris over with a glorious long ball to give his side a crucial 12-point lead. With Frawley in this kind of form, it will be very difficult for Des Hasler to drop him ahead of next Friday's showdown with the Bunnies.
Lamb will be feeling sheepish after butchering a certain try
The Knights could have – and should have – headed into the sheds with a commanding 12-point lead. With a full set of six at their disposal, Brock Lamb received the ball close to the line with an unmarked Ken Sio on his outside screaming for the Steeden. Instead, the young five-eighth threw a dummy and was smashed by Josh Morris a metre out. The Knights still had the numbers on the other side of the field but came up with a poor pass which was swooped upon by the Bulldogs who had looked lifeless in attack up until that point. Right on cue, they went 100 metres in the final set of the half and scored through Brenko Lee to give them momentum heading into the break before they ran away with it in the second half.
History repeats… sort of
History has a funny way of repeating itself in rugby league. Last season, the Bulldogs lost 36-0 to the Cowboys in Round 20, followed it up with a three-point win at ANZ Stadium the following week and then earned a 28-14 win in Newcastle in Round 22. Sound somewhat familiar? Cast your mind back a few weeks away. The Bulldogs lost 36-0 to the Sea Eagles, then knocked off the Broncos by three points at ANZ Stadium. Surely history wouldn't repeat. The margin might have been different, but lo and behold they beat the Knights in Newcastle on Friday.
Nathan Ross is a magician
We thought we'd seen it all when Knights winger Nathan Ross defied gravity to score one of the most absurd tries of all time against the Dragons in 2016. Thankfully for footy fans, the cult hero showed he's more than just a one-trick pony with an equally-spectacular four-pointer midway through the first half on Friday night. With the Knights on the attack, halfback Trent Hodkinson opted for the aerial route and found his winger with a pinpoint chip kick. Ross's work wasn't done yet as he was met mid-air by Marcelo Montoya who chopped him around the legs. Despite the attention of his opposite number, Ross maintained control of the ball, realised where he was and planted the ball down spectacularly for one of the tries of the year.
Dane can be the guy for Queensland
A lot has been made about who isn't available for the Maroons for this year's State of Origin series, but Knights centre Dane Gagai sent Queenslanders a timely reminder of how good he can be with a virtuoso performance against the Bulldogs. Gagai had six tackle busts and two line breaks in the first half and made his opposite number look silly at times. He capped off a stellar night with a brilliant try in the second half after having another effort ruled out earlier in the game. The Maroons might be without Greg Inglis and Matt Scott, but Gagai – who scored a hat-trick in Game II last year – reminded selectors that he is still a force against quality opposition.