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The Newcastle Knights have recorded their third victory of the season in a close 21-14 victory over finals chasing St George Illawarra Dragons in front of 15,031 fans up in the Hunter.
They were so close many times before, the wheel had to turn eventually for the Knights and it did so in dramatic fashion. A late Jacob Saifiti four-pointer aided by a Trent Hodkinson field goal sent the fans into rapture to break an eight game losing run.
Like a majority of the season, the Knights led at half-time, thanks to a solo Brock Lamb effort then Shaun Kenny-Dowall endeared himself to the locals with a jumpman effort which were cancelled out by two scores from the Saints. A penalty goal from Hodkinson gave them the slender 14-12 advantage.
At points, it looked like the Dragons would, like in round 16, they would run away with the contest. They broke the line eight times but only found the white stripe twice, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims the scorers. Fighting for their finals position, the Dragons offered up a damp squib of an effort as they continued to push the ball sideways as they produced a sole Gareth Widdop goal for points in the second half.
It seemed like the red and whites appeared to believe they could attack their way to the two points, it let to a turgid 18 completed sets for the whole contest as they treated the ball as a hot potato which inspired the Knights who repelled them each time.
The Knights were up for the contest from the opening minute, as they broke through within 60 seconds and never let the Dragons breath in the contest. Even when the Saints broke through the line, Nathan Ross was there to repel Jason Nightingale once and Josh Dugan twice as the optimism built through the 15,031 crowd.
When Saifiti crossed to hand them back the lead, a booming New-cast-le chant reverberated through the stadium as this time, the Knights weren't going to be rundown in spectacular circumstances and their loyalty was rewarded in the joy which poured both after Hodkinson's field goal then the full-time whistle.
That loss leaves the Dragons hanging onto eight position on for-and-against over the Panthers, who defeated the Bulldogs on Thursday night. They have a comfortable run-in but the key clash will be the game between the Panthers and Dragons in Round 25. Next week the Red V are hosting the Rabbitohs at the SCG, while the Knights host the Warriors.
Newcastle Knights 21 - St George Illawarra Dragons 14
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Halftime Score: Newcastle Knights 14 St George Illawarra Dragons 12
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jacob Saifiti
2 points - Brock Lamb
1 points - Nene Macdonald
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (21)
Tries: Brock Lamb, Shaun Kenny-dowall, Jacob Saifiti
Field Goals: Trent Hodkinson (1/1)
Conversions: Trent Hodkinson (3/3)
Penalty Goals: Trent Hodkinson (1/1)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (14)
Tries: Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims
Conversions: Gareth Widdop (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Gareth Widdop (1/1)