Dragons Return To Winning Ways
The St George Illawarra Dragons were 46-24 victors over the Newcastle Knights at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Sunday.
The Red-and-Whites scored seven tries in the victory while five-eighth Gareth Widdop converted nine goals from nine attempts from the spot.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made only the one personnel change to the line-up announced midweek ahead of the game, welcoming utility Dylan Farrell back into the fold on the wing.
The local Culburra Dolphins junior, who returned following a month-long back injury, replaced Justin Hunt on the flank and ran-out alongside prop Will Matthews who shifted into the forward-pack in lieu of captain Ben Creagh who reverted to the interchange bench.
The Dragons entered the fray having lost seven fixtures in succession but saw themselves commanding an early lead through fullback Josh Dugan in the second minute of play.
The Australia international’s height and agility proved the difference in the pack of players whom tussled to collect halfback Benji Marshall’s sky-scraping kick, much to the fanfare of the home crowd.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop soon converted to make it 6-0.
The hosts secured their second try minutes later when hooker Mitch Rein proved quickest to a lost ball bobbling around the Knights in-goal area in the eighth minute.
Widdop converted again to make it 12-0.
The Knights replied however in high-tempo fashion to levelled proceedings with two quick tries before the midway point of the half.
Knights captain Kurt Gidley scored first in the 13th minute before hooker Adam Clydsdale followed suit in the 18th.
Knights halfback Tyrone Roberts converted both goals to make it 12-all.
The visitors took the lead through some counter-attacking rugby league which ultimately allowed winger Jake Mamo to cross the stripe in the 23rd minute.
Their resurgence continued and soon Knights debutant Nathan Ross saw his name on the scoresheet in the 32nd minute.
The Dragons were awarded a penalty goal on the cusp of the interval which was converted by Widdop.
The England international took matters into his own hands following the commencement of second-half and singlehandedly evened-up proceedings in the 46th minute.
The hosts had been applying early attacking pressure on their opposition for several sets only to be thwarted until Widdop seized his opportunity having spotted an opening to weave past two markers having and score.
The five-eighth then converted to make it 20-all.
The home side reclaimed the lead for a second time when they were awarded a penalty goal moments later which Widdop converted.
The Dragons continued advancing forward in the ensuing sets and asserted their dominance with a powerful try to second-rower Tyson Frizell in the 55th minute.
Widdop converted to make it 28-20.
Unfortunately, Knights utility Tyler Randall neutralised this momentum with a blistering 50-metre run down the left flank to make it 28-24.
Dragons halfback Benji Marshall created and completed a valuable play to gift his team a further four-points in the closing quarter of the game which saw him interlink with Widdop and Rein down the left-edge.
Widdop added the extras to make it 34-24.
Dragons prop Will Matthews etched his name on the scoresheet ten minutes from time to make it 38-24.
Widdop was accurate again when he ventured to the tee to make it 40-24.
Dugan bookended a successful outing for the team with his second try of the encounter just shy of the siren.
Widdop converted to make it 46-24.
St George Illawarra Dragons 46. Tries: Dugan (2), Rein, Widdop, Frizell, Marshall, Matthews. Goals: Widdop (7/7). Penalty Goal: Widdop (2/2).
Newcastle Knights 24. Tries: Gidley, Clydsdale, Mamo, Ross, Randell. Goals: Roberts (2/5).