By Robert Crosby
The St George Illawarra Dragons have posted their first win of the season in the Canterbury Cup NSW, defeating the Newcastle Knights 34-16 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
With both sides going down in their past two matches the importance of coming away with two competition points saw the Dragons prove too strong, despite a hat-trick from Knights winger Kiah Cooper.
Getting the better of the opening exchanges the Dragons opened the scoring after eight minutes through an Eli Levido penalty goal.
Denied the opening try in the 11th minute due to a forward pass, Jonus Pearson made amends minutes later to give the visitors a 6-0 lead midway through the first half.
With Pearson denied another four-pointer with the final pass ruled forward, the Knights struck back in the 26th minute after a rampaging run from returning centre Tautau Moga put Cooper over in the left corner.
Crossing for a crucial try just before the break, Dragons hooker Reece Robson gave the visitors a 12-4 lead at the change of ends.
Sustaining pressure from the Dragons early in the second half, a 50-metre intercept from Mitchell Andrews paved the way for Moga to score his first try in over a year to narrow the score to 12-8.
Needing to lift their intensity having been punished for late fade-outs over the opening three weeks, the Dragons responding with two tries in four minutes to Tristan Sailor and Levido to take the score out to 24-8 with 20 minutes to play.
Securing the result through Luciano Leilua and Josh Kerr, two late consolation efforts gave Cooper his hat-trick as the Dragons ran out 34-16 winners.
Next week, Newcastle host Blacktown Workers on Saturday afternoon, while St George Illawarra return to Kogarah against Canterbury-Bankstown on Sunday.