The St George Illawarra Dragons have come away with their second win of the season, comprehensively defeating the Newcastle Knights 30-10 at WIN Stadium.
Fullback Jai Field led the way for the Dragons, finishing the game with three try-assists, a try and two goals to his name and performing strongly alongside halves Darren Nicholls and Adam Clune.
While the home side remained relatively unchanged, Hame Sele coming onto the bench in place of Ash Nisbet, there were changes to the Knights' squad. Amid a reshuffle in the back line, Intrust Super Premiership debutant Jacob Gagai replaced Ken Sio while 13-time NRL five-eighth Ryan Stig made a triumphant return to elite Rugby League, replacing Jack Johns in the 17.
As he has done on several occasions before for the Dragons, fullback Jai Field wasted little time in setting the contest alight; as the Knights were applying pressure, the No.1 regained the football on his own try line before breaking through the defence and running 100 metres to score. With his own conversion, he handed the home side the early 6-0 lead.
Match: Dragons v Knights
Round 4 -
Venue: WIN Stadium
A back-and-forth contest ensued, but the next 15 minutes failed to bring points for either side. Midway through the first half, the Knights suffered a blow with Danny Levi leaving the field for an HIA, but the experienced hooker would return 15 minutes later.
Levi's replacement, however, appeared to offer some needed spark for the visitors. It was Stig who took to the field and soon after, Newcastle found themselves on the scoreboard; their first points came via second-rower Bobby Treacey, who broke down the left edge for the Knights to score.
A fine defensive effort from Gagai put Dragons winger Jordan Pereira into touch when he looked certain to score, as the Knights began to enjoy a momentum swing. That came to a halt soon after, however, when Tom Hughes knocked on over the Dragons' line, putting an end to a golden opportunity.
The Dragons were looking strong late in the half as Field and Adam Clune looked likely to combine for a try, but it was Field and Pat Herbert to get the side's second a play later. Herbert muscled his way over in the final play of the first half, leaving St George Illawarra with a 12-4 half-time lead.
Darren Nicholls looked to the air to try and get more points for the Dragons soon after the resumption, with the Knights gifting the Dragons repeat sets on both occasions. On their third try, it was a right-hand shift to John Tohi which would bring the try, with the winger taking a superb Field pass and demonstrating acrobatics in the south-western corner.
Almost immediately after his try, Tohi let the Knights off the hook with a high tackle, sparking a run of four penalties against Mat Head's men. The period of possession resulted in a try for the Knights, with Levi sending Luke Yates over from close range.
Field was let off soon, with the Knights penalised for being offside when he knocked on from a kick, but his successful day out continued. On the back of the penalty, the Dragons No.1 found Pereira for the side's fourth try and while Field couldn't convert, they led 20-10.
As the game looked likely to erupt, the Dragons were awarded a penalty in attacking position, with Field calmly missing what appeared to be an easy shot at goal. Just minutes later, the side was awarded an identical opportunity on almost the same patch of grass, with Nicholls taking over kicking duties and adding an extra two points.
The Dragons looked to score a fifth try through the most unlikely of circumstances, when Mitch Allgood found himself in possession against the run of play. The prop raced into space before looking to find Clune, with the five-eighth toeing the ball along the ground. Without the ball, Clune was dragged to the ground, sparking calls for a penalty try - and while that wasn't to be, the Knights centre was sin-binned and the Nicholls slotted another penalty goal.
With the Knights reduced to 12 men for the remainder of the game, the Dragons were destined to extend their lead. They did so through their captain, with Nicholls supporting Jacob Host when the second-rower found himself in space.
Nicholls added the extras from in front, finishing a 30-10 victory for the home side.
St George Illawarra Dragons 30 (J Field, P Herbert J Tohi J Pereira, D Nicholls tries; J Field 2, D Nicholls 3 goals) def Newcastle Knights 10 (B Treacey L Yates tries; R Stig goal)