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Knights overcome Dragons in wet conditions

The Alex McKinnon Cup will remain in the Hunter after the Knights came away with a 30-10 Round 5 win over the Dragons in Newcastle.

Both sides braved torrential conditions with keen spectators forced to cluster around McDonald Jones Stadium’s covered areas to watch on.

It became clear early on that the side that best adjusted to the wild weather would come out on top with Knights five-eighth Jack Cogger making life difficult for the Dragons defenders by continually landing his kicks in the puddles that had formed at the northern end of the ground in the opening stanza.

Points proved harder to come by in the second half with the downpour refusing to relent and the error count continuing to mount.

An early pair of yardage penalties advanced the hosts up field with recalled halfback Jackson Hastings cleaning up a skidding Cogger grubber to score next to the sticks.

The Dragons looked to respond through an enterprising sequence involving Zac Lomax and Jack Bird with the former skying to reel in a Ben Hunt kick and sending the latter down the sideline with a nice offload only for the final pass to find a Knight.

Luciano Leilua burst into the backfield soon after to wrestle momentum back the way of the visitors with Lomax scooping up a Hunt grubber off his bootlaces to dive over in the right corner off the back of it.

Lomax was unable to overcome the swirling winds and heavy rain to convert his own try as the Dragons’ deficit remained at two.

Kalyn Ponga threatened to hit back off an attacking scrum for the Knights, but a strong Hunt cover effort dislodged the ball to earn the Dragons a 20-metre restart.

Hunt finished off the sequence he started in spectacular fashion again combining with Lomax who pulled off a miraculous, behind-the-back pass back inside to his skipper after tiptoeing down the touchline to put the Red V ahead.

Another yardage penalty put the hosts back on the attack with Enari Tuala sliding over in the corner off a Ponga cut-out to wrestle the lead back.

Cogger’s boot again bore fruit for the Knights with Daniel Saifiti steaming through to ground the No.6’s slippery grubber next to the left upright.

A Dragons error kept the Knights in strong field position with Dylan Lucas sliding over to extend their lead to 24-10 heading into the break.

The Knights looked to continue their momentum into the second half through Hastings’ boot this time only for the video officials to rule that Bradman Best knocked the ball on in the in-goal.

In a show of the night’s treacherous conditions, both Best and Hastings found themselves shaken up after sliding several metres into the hoarding at the end of the ground.

Off the restart, the Dragons looked to come up with an answer only for a late Leilua offload to go to ground shy of the try-line.

Bird was taken from the field with a little over a half-hour remaining with a lower leg issue forcing Jesse Marschke to right centre.

Ponga slid into the backfield just shy of the hour mark and looked to put his winger over only for a desperate Mikaele Ravalawa cover effort to prevent the pass.

The Dragons appeared to have forced an error moments later only for the Knights to lodge a successful captain’s challenge and retain possession.

A change to the halftime score looked to have eventually come with 11 minutes to play through Leo Thompson out of acting half however video officials ruled that he had used his own player as an obstruction.

Ponga grabbed a try late to cap off the win and retain the Alex McKinnon Cup for the Knights.

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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