Knights stun Dragons in Newcastle
The Dragons' hopes of playing finals footy have taken a huge hit after the Red V fell 21-14 to the bottom-placed Knights in a major upset at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Following on from last week's attacking masterclass against Manly, most people expected the Dragons to simply march on against a side that had lost eight matches on the trot, but what they didn't count on was for the Knights to put on a stirring display in front of their fans to claim their third victory of 2017.
The loss leaves the Dragons in eighth spot and level on points with the Penrith Panthers who they'll face in Round 25 in what shapes as a virtual elimination final.
Having watched their team surrender a number of second-half leads this season, Knights fans couldn't breathe easily until Trent Hodkinson slotted a 79th-minute field goal to secure the two competition points and leave the home crowd in raptures.
The second stanza didn't start any better for the visitors with a flurry of indiscretions stunting their attempts to get back into the contest until a Gareth Widdop penalty goal levelled things up with 20 minutes to play.
Both teams traded enterprising sets but it was a simple barge forward and an offload in traffic from Josh King that saw late-inclusion Jacob Saifiti scoop up the loose ball to grab the match-winning four-pointer with eight minutes left on the clock.
As we've seen all year, the Knights raced out of the blocks with Nathan Ross making early inroads before Brock Lamb did it all himself with a cheeky grubber and regather to give the hosts a 6-0 lead after six minutes.
When he wasn't scoring tries, Lamb was setting them up as the talented five-eighth's cross-field bomb was expertly claimed by mid-season recruit Shaun Kenny-Dowall who touched down for his second try in as many games as a Knight.
Jason Nightingale then went close to scoring what would have been the try of the season, but his audaciously acrobatic effort didn't go to plan as Ross bundled him into touch just short of the line.
Unperturbed by the slow start, the visitors quickly worked their way back into the contest and the pressure eventually told when a series of offloads ended up in the hands of Paul Vaughan who crashed over for his sixth try of the year.
The Dragons went agonisingly close to levelling the scores when Tim Lafai's 31st-minute effort was disallowed by the Bunker who couldn't find any sufficient evidence to overturn the on-field ruling that Nightingale had knocked-on in the lead-up.
Things didn't get much better for the travelling fans when Nene Macdonald's 95-metre solo try was rubbed out by the Bunker because Tyson Frizell had impeded one of the Newcastle chasers in the lead-up, and the Dragons' ill-discipline eventually told as Trent Hodkinson knocked over a penalty goal to give the Knights a 14-6 lead.
Just when it looked as though Newcastle would head into the sheds with a handy advantage, the Red V struck back with the final play of the half to cut the gap to two points courtesy of Tariq Sims's barnstorming try.
Knights 21 (Brock Lamb, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jacob Saifiti tries; Trent Hodkinson 4 goals; Trent Hodkinson field goal) def. Dragons 14 (Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims tries; Gareth Widdop 3 goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Half-time: 14-12. Crowd: 15,031
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Brock Lamb. 2 points: Jacob Saifiti. 1 point: Paul Vaughan.