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A Teagan Berry double was not enough to push the Dragons past the Newcastle Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon with the defending premiers coming away with a 32-16 Round 1 win.

The hosts started strongly with a trio of tries in the opening 27 minutes giving them an 18-0 lead before a piece of Berry brilliance on the stroke of half-time dragged Jamie Soward’s side back into the game.

The Knights put their foot back on the accelerator on the other side of half-time with two more four-pointers prior to the hour-mark before the Dragons mounted a fightback effort with a pair of late tries in the space of just two sets via Berry and debutant Tyla Nathan-Wong.

Jesse Southwell stepped her way to the line in the final stages, however, to cap off the win for the Knights in front of their home fans.

The Dragons broke the Newcastle line in the opening set of the contest with Nathan-Wong and former-Knight Bobbi Law combining down the left edge before the cover defence put a stop to the raid.

It was instead the hosts opening the scoring through front rower Tayla Predebon who took in a face ball from hooker Olivia Higgins to crash over next to the right upright off the back of a pair of penalties.

Their second came through left back-rower Yasmin Clydsdale who found a hole off the hip of Tamika Upton and dashed around to improve the position and the Newcastle lead to a dozen.

NRLW Highlights: Round 1 v Knights

The Knights lead ballooned out to 18 after interchange forward Kayla Romaniuk barged over under the sticks off a Southwell unders ball as the Dragons’ defence cracked following a sustained period of pressure.

Nathan-Wong was sent for a head injury assessment the corresponding set after a heavy fifth-tackle collision with Knights enforcer Caitlan Johnston but she was cleared to return after the break.

The Red V hit back just shy of half-time through the club’s all-time leading try-scorer Berry who found some space behind the ruck and darted her way through some loose tackle attempts to dive over next to the posts.

Jamilee Bright knocked over the extra two to make it 18-6 heading into the sheds.

The Knights notched the first points of the second half via winger Jasmin Strange in the left corner off a Caitlin Moran cut-out as their lead improved back to 16.

Strange went within inches of a second off a Southwell kick only for a desperate Taylor-Adeline Mapusua effort to deny her.

Moran laid on another for the defending premiers with a deft grubber for Abigail Roache 56 minutes in.

Berry added yet another length-of-the-field pearler to her highlights reel late in the piece after trapping a Southwell grubber, picking the ball up, and racing 95 metres downfield for the 12th try of her NRLW career.

Nathan-Wong slotted the conversion for the first points of her NRLW career to make it 26-12.

The rugby sevens convert followed her first NRLW goal with her first NRLW try the following set after the visitors marched down the field and laid the platform for the fleet-footed five-eighth to step her way to the try-line on the last tackle.

Southwell capped off the scoring for the hosts moments short of the full-time siren and converted her own try as the defending premiers held on for a 32-16 win.

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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