Round 26 v Newcastle Knights
The St George Illawarra Dragons defeated the Newcastle Knights 28-26 at UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Saturday.
The Red-and-Whites scored five tries in the victory including a doube to second-rower Joel Thompson and winger Jason Nightingale.
The victory however came in the closing minutes of the game when co-captain Gareth Widdop notched a well-placed penalty goal.
Head Coach Paul McGregor had made several changes to the line-up announced midweek with co-captain Ben Creagh and second-rower Tyson Frizell both omitted due to knee injuries.
Consequently, Thompson and utility Will Matthews replaced the pair in the starting pack with centre Tim Lafai and fellow second-rower Luciano Leilua named on the interchange.
The Knights opened the scoring five minutes into play after fullback Jake Mamo threw a long cut-out pass to winger Nathan Ross, who burrowed his way over out wide for a 4-0 lead.
The visitors added to their lead shortly after, when prop Jacob Saifiti picked up a lose ball to dive over for his second try of the season.
Knights halfback Trent Hodkinson added the extras from directly in front for a 10-0 lead after 12 minutes.
The Dragons however hit back five minutes later when fullback Josh Dugan put wide running winger Jason Nightingale over in the corner.
Widdop slotted the conversion to claw the deficit back to four points.
Thompson later levelled the scores after running 50 metres before stepping Mamo to score untouched.
The five-time Indigenous All-Star snagged his second try three minutes later, this time running over the top of Mamo to score his third try of the season.
Widdop added the two points to extend the Dragons lead out to 16-10 with eight minutes remaining.
The Dragons continued their hot streak, this time with hooker Jake Marketo getting in on the action on the halfhour mark thanks to a perfect pass infield by Jason Nightingale.
Again, Widdop converted try to send the Dragons into the sheds up by 12 points.
The Knights were the first to post points after the break, when centre Dane Gagai used his footwork to score in the corner to narrow the margin back to six points four minutes into the half.
Centre Peter Mata’utai crossed moments later, diving on a Trent Hodkinson grubber kick in the in goal just short of the dead ball line.
Hodkinson converted the try to put the score at 22-20.
The hosts stopped Knights momentum Nightingale’s second, scoring with a terrific putdown in the eastern corner.
The Knights continued apply the pressure on the Dragons line before, crossing for one final try through second rower Mitch Barnett.
Hodkinson converted to level the scores with seven minutes left.
With less than a minute remaining, Widdop knocked over a penalty goal from 40 metres out to secure the two point victory.
St George Illawarra Dragons 28. Tries: Nightingale (2), Thompson (2), Marketo. Goals: Gareth Widdop (3/5).
Newcastle Knights: 26 Tries: Ross, Saifiti, Gagai, Mata’utai, Barnett. Goals: Hodkinson (3/5).