The St George Dragons Harold Matthews (U16) and SG Ball (U18) sides were both defeated in two high-scoring encounters with the Newcastle Knights at WIN Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Saturday.
While the SG Ball squad showed some fight in the second half but were unable to register their first win of the season, in the Harold Matthews it was one-way traffic as the Dragons went down 52 points to 12.
It took just two minutes for the Knights to get on the board, Newcastle’s Matt Cooper scoring next to the posts to begin what would be a very successful afternoon for the fullback. Converted by the Knights halfback, a converted try lead was established before the Dragons had their first chance to attack.
When St George did get an opportunity, the right winger was put through a hole and looked to hit back almost instantly; a dropped ball, however, signalled the first of many surrendered opportunities for the home side.
In the follow-up set, the Knights’ centre was put through a gap before linking up with Cooper for his second in under ten minutes, and just two minutes later some poor goal-line defence resulted in a try to prop Brodie Jones; both tries converted, the visitors lead 18-0 after 12 minutes.
Soon after, the Dragons scored a good try from a long-range kick into the right corner, dived upon and converted to put the home side on the board.
The try was converted, but any hope of a momentum shift vanished when St George conceded a penalty on their own line minutes later – Cooper cutting through a disjointed defence in the 22nd minute, going over untouched to bring up his hat trick.
The fullback’s first-half efforts weren’t over yet, however – when a St George centre was bundled into touch deep inside his own half, Cooper scored his fourth in the left corner off the resulting scrum – and the Knights headed into the break leading 30-6.
Gifted three repeat sets in the opening exchanges of the second half, the Dragons were once again unable to score, and Newcastle made them pay with their first chance; Jones made another break and linked up with Cooper for his fifth try of the afternoon.
A kickoff out on the full saw the Dragons defending their own line again moments later, the defence appearing powerless to stop Jones from bagging a double of his own.
Two minutes later, an easy line break and pass out wide gave the Knights’ winger a try, which was converted; over the following ten minutes, however, the Dragons enjoyed an attacking period and several repeat sets, the prop finally scoring their second on the back of two penalties in the final five minutes.
On the last play of the game, Newcastle’s Matt Cooper showed that he hadn’t given up yet – a line break and cutout ball from the Knights centre completing the fullback’s six-try haul at WIN Jubilee Oval.
It was a cruel irony for the home side, coming from a name attributed to countless tries at Kogarah over the years, as they went down 52-12.
When the SG Ball match commenced and Newcastle scored in the opening four minutes, it seemed to be much of the same for the under 18s; the try coming from the centre near the right corner.
The Dragons were given a brief attacking opportunity before sending a grubber kick over the dead ball line, but wouldn’t see the ball again for over ten minutes.
The halfback scored under the posts for the first of three consecutive tries before a line break and penalty from the Knights’ number 8 brought the second – a 40-20 kick in the following set making it three in a row as the second rower made it 0-22.
Soon enough, the Dragons made up some possession with three consecutive penalties bringing their first try out wide. The Knights hit back almost instantly to establish a halftime score of 4-28.
It would be the St George juniors to register first points in the second half, the fullback going himself to score in the right corner which again went unconverted.
In the space of ten minutes, both sides scored through their right centres, two almost-identical set plays bringing the score to 14-34.
After another ten minutes of mostly Dragons attack, momentum seemed to have shifted – highlighted by two tries to the Saints’ hooker and prop in the 60th and 62nd minutes; with just eight points the margin, an incredible comeback in the final eight minutes seemed within reach.
With five minutes remaining, however, the Knights’ Braden Robson bagged his second off a scrum to put it out of reach for the home side, who were defeated 26-40.
Next Saturday’s match against the Western Sydney Academy of Sport at WIN Jubilee Oval will signal the halfway point of both junior representative competitions and both sides will be under pressure to perform.
While the Harold Matthews (10:30am kickoff) side will look for a complete form reversal to register their second win of the season, the SG Ball (12pm kickoff) will be hoping to avoid the catch-up situations that they often find themselves in, in an effort to win their first match.