Knights out to defy odds against Dragons
Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has identified in-form playmaker Gareth Widdop and St George Illawarra's outside backs as the danger men when they host the Dragons at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
It was just five weeks ago the Knights let slip a 22-point lead at half-time against the Dragons in Kogarah to suffer a heartbreaking loss and the fast turnaround should give the side every confidence they'll be able to match it with the Red V on home turf.
Despite a 48 per cent possession rate and completing at less than 70 per cent against the Roosters, the Knights were able to match it with their opponents in the forwards with limited ball but lacked the attacking polish at the end of sets.
St George Illawarra shot out of the blocks back in Round 16 with two tries early before the Knights produced a remarkable five tries in 14 minutes to blow the game wide open, with Dragons supporters even booing their side at the break.
Unfortunately for Newcastle, their half-time curse struck once more and they surrendered an inexcusable lead.
"It was a day where we played some terrific footy and it was a day where we had a period in that second half when we were poor and that’s been fairly common this year," Brown said.
"We were in a really good position and didn't come up with the points, but we look forward to the contest again.
"We'll go into the game and we should feel that we really matched a big Roosters pack and we just need to tidy up one or two key parts of the game at crucial stages.
"If we can nail one or two things at the right time, we can get ourselves in a position to do OK."
Newcastle were peppered out wide in the corresponding clash with Jason Nightingale crossing for a hat-trick and Josh Dugan racking up over 255 metres in the four-point victory.
The Dragons rank fifth in the competition for tries scored off kicks with 13, while the Knights have conceded 17 off the boot in the opening 20 rounds.
"Some of their outside backs are good jumpers so we're going to have to be good in that area," Brown said.
"On the weekend they got three or four and we obviously had the three against us so it will be an area we need to be good at and particularly with [Gareth] Widdop back in form.
"We need to be defending well before it and our pressure has to be good from the middle."
The Dragons have a remarkable away record against the Knights, winning 15 of 18 games in the Hunter since 1999.
Brown maintained Dragons skipper Widdop was the key to the opposition's success after terrorising the Knights last start with four try assists and three line breaks.
Widdop was again dominant on the weekend against the Sea Eagles in arguably his best game back since a knee injury halted the Dragons' early season form.
"Out of all the halves in the competition, he's one that is in the top handful of try assists whether it be passing or kicking or scoring himself," Brown said.
"A lot of the Dragons momentum has been built on their good forward pack and if our middles do a good job, it will give us a much better chance of controlling Gareth."