Dragons winger Jordan Pereira.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has praised young winger Jordan Pereira for a momentum shifting tackle in the second half of Saturday's hard fought 24-14 win over the Newcastle Knights.

The home side were on the attack, and looked to have an overlap out wide when Pereira raced off his wing to put a hit on Mitchell Barnett to deny the Knights any points.

From there the Dragons took the lead, and the Dragons coach admitted it was a defining moment.

"It was good timing," McGregor said.

"He (Pereira) made the decision to come off the wing on the pass and made the right tackle at a really important time.

"That's one of the game changers you have, when you are short of a couple of numbers and come up with a play like that."

The win provided plenty of positives for Dragons officials, who were extremely pleased with the goal line defence, holding out most of the Knights' 46 tackles inside the 20-metre zone.

The visitors also only missed 14 tackles for the game, giving the team confidence heading into the finals.

"I think you saw some of it today, we wanted to get back to being a strong defensive side, which we were for the first 15 rounds," McGregor said.

"We will take the win but we did it the hard way - we had no possession in the first half, and no field position – just like the other eight weeks before it - but we found a way today, which is good.

"To a man, the effort and the energy and intent across the board was very pleasing."

But McGregor was not happy with the 10 handling errors, and the seven penalties conceded, saying that it would not be good enough in the finals environment. He also was critical of his side's finishing.

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In a further boost, McGregor could welcome back key stars Gareth Widdop and Jason Nightingale from injury next week.

Hooker Cameron McInnes is confident they can carry the momentum into the finals.

"It's just having the right attitude and wanting to get off the line and take the contact to them," McInnes said.

"That's what we did all day, regardless of how many we had to make – there was a lot of them – but we just kept going all day.

"That's the DNA of our team, so it will be good for us in the finals."