Round 16 v Newcastle Knights
The St George Illawarra Dragons were 30-18 winners over the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle on Saturday.
The Red-and Whites outscored the home side six tries to three to retain the Alex McKinnon Cup and notch their third win in four weeks.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made several change to the line-up announced midweek welcoming back fullback Josh Dugan into the fold folloiwing his recovery from an elbow injury.
The Australia international started in the custodian's role meaning winger Jason Nightingale shifted back to the flanks in lieu of Kurt Mann.
Furthermore, second-rower Tyson Frizell was named at lock-forward following Mike Cooper's late omission due to a neck injury.
The visitors started the scoring early with Dugan putting centre Euan Aitken into a yawning gap, before linking with winger Kalifa Faifai Loa for his fifth try of the season.
Minutes later, second-rower Jacob Host, playing only his third first-grade game, was the beneficiary of a short ball courtesy of five-eighth Gareth Widdop, to score his first try in the fourth minute.
Widdop’s conversion made it 10-0.
The visitors continued to send traffic down their right hand edge which later saw halfback Benji Marshall put Aitken over untouched in the 16th minute.
However, it took one of the tries of the season for the Knights to get past the stout goal-line defence of the Dragons, with winger Nathan Ross jumping over the corner post to get the ball down.
Knights halfback Trent Hodkinson slotted the kick from the sideline to put the score at 14-6.
The home side's momentum did not last long though, with Marshall throwing a pass that cut out three players to find Nightingale on the left edge.
The New Zealand international followed-up by giving it to Tim Lafai for a 18-6 lead.
Having already set up two, Marshall decided to get on the scoreboard himself, throwing a dummy before slicing through the Knights defensive line untouched to send the Dragons into the sheds up 22-6.
The Dragons did not miss a beat during the break, with Marshall holding a pass up for second-rower Joel Thompson, who shrugged off Knights winger Dane Gagai for his first try of the season.
Widdop added the two points to make it 28-6.
Yet converted tries to Knights duo Sione Mata’utai and Mitchell Barnett in the space of nine minutes brought the hosts to within striking stance with six minutes remaining.
Hodkinson converted both his attempts to make it 28-18.
Fortunately, Widdop added a further two points following on from an awarded penalty near time to confirm the win.
St George Illawarra Dragons 30. Tries: Faifai Loa, Host, Aitken, Lafai, Marshall, Thompson. Goals: Widdop (2/6). Penalty Goals: Widdop (1/1).
Newcastle Knights 18. Tries: Ross, Mata’utai, Barnett. Goals: Hodkinson (3/3).