Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
12 hours ago
A sell-out Newcastle crowd welcomed in season 2012 as the St George Illawarra Dragons clinched the first 2 points of the season with a one-point 15-14 victory over the Newcastle Knights. Newcastle's Hunter Stadium played host to the season kickoff for 2012.
The first half told an interesting story from the moment of the opening whistle. Ben Hornby kicked the season off, but with a misdirected kick, the ball had gone out on the full and he'd handed the Knights a penalty. Newcastle made good use of the penalty, finding their way deep into the Dragons' territory before they were awarded a second penalty which they used to claim the first points of the season, through a penalty kick off the boot of Kurt Gidley.
It took 4 minutes for the Dragons to get their first use of the football, but they were intent to make up for lost time. With that possession, the Dragons began to take control of proceedings and in the 11th minute got the scorecard to show just that, claiming the first try of the season. Brett Morris took the honours after a sideline to sideline effort put him over in the corner. Soward was pinpoint accurate from the sideline and Dragons were off to a good start.
The visitors continued to dominate the match and extended their lead to 6 points in the 29th minute with a penalty goal. A couple of mistakes from St George Illawarra soon offered the Knights an opportunity to hit back and in the 34th minute Jarrod Mullen did just that, collecting Newcastle's first try of the season. The home side lifted in momentum heading into the interval, but went into the sheds remaining two points behind with the Dragons leading 8-6.
The second half was ripe for the taking, and from the early stages the Dragons seemed to want it more, finding their way to the try line inside 4 minutes. The video replay however, denied them early points, showing Nathan Fien to have bobbled the ball in goal. The Dragons were able to maintain the momentum and in the 48th minute managed to get video referee Russell Smith's green light for a try to Matt Cooper. Soward continued a perfect night with the kicking tee and the Dragons had an 8 point lead.
With the game starting to slip away, the Knights started to kick into gear until Timana Tahu was put on report for kneeing - an infringement that could see him with a stint on the sidelines. Minutes later it was some Tahu brilliance that put the Knights back in it, putting winger James McManus in to score. A perfect sideline conversion from Gidley put the Knights within two. As the Knights started to help themselves, the Dragons offered the some assistance too and back-to-back penalties helped Gidley's boot to level the scores.
Boots were then called on in an attempt to break the deadlock. The first opportunities were difficult and neither side could finish it in normal time. The game was headed for a thrilling golden point finish, where both sides appeared guilty of wanting it too much and began to really squander their opportunities with handling errors aplenty. In the 85th minute, the Dragons had perfectly set for an easy shot for Jamie Soward who took it and clinched the victory for the visitors who took the game 15-14.
With a first round win under the belt for the Dragons and new coach Steve Price, they'll head to Sydney's ANZ Stadium next week to face rivals Canterbury on Saturday night. The Knights will regroup and make the trip to Toyota Stadium for an away clash with Cronulla on Sunday week.
Newcastle Knights 14 were defeated by St George Illawarra Dragons 15
National Rugby League - Round 1 - Thursday March 1, 2012 7:45pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium (formerly Ausgrid)
Referee: Matt Cecchin and Ashley Klein
Video Referee: Russell Smith
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Ricky MacFarlane
Halftime: Newcastle Knights 6 St George Illawarra Dragons 8
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (14)
Tries: Jarrod Mullen, James McManus
Field Goals: Jarrod Mullen (0/1)
Conversions: Kurt Gidley (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Kurt Gidley (2/2)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (15)
Tries: Matt Cooper, Brett Morris
Field Goals: Jamie Soward (1/3)
Conversions: Jamie Soward (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Jamie Soward (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening! League Unlimited is very excited to bring to you NRL season 2012. This season promises to be so huge that it cannot be fit into 30 weeks - hence our two weeks and one day early start.
To kick off the season, we are at the newly named Hunter Stadium (formerly Ausgrid) in Newcastle where a Wayne Bennett led Newcastle Knights outfit take on his former charges the Saint George Illawarra Dragons.
Join the conversation - follow LeagueUnlimited on Twitter and tweet about the match using the Official Hashtag = #NRLnewsti.
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TEAM NEWS: The Newcastle Knights will go in as per program. The Saint George Illawarra Dragons have one superficial change with debutant Jack de Belin starting in the lock position, with Dean Young starting on the bench.
1 min: Hornby kicks off and the ball goes out on the full. PENALTY to Newcastle at halfway.
2 min: Knights earn a second PENALTY right at the Dragons' throats.
3 min: PENALTY GOAL
Newcastle opt to take the two, Gidley almost messes up an easy shot but it bounces off the post inside to give Newcastle the early lead.
Newcastle Knights 2-0
4 min: The visitors finally find their first use of the football.
5 min: Good line break made by the Dragons in their first offensive set to put them in a good position for the kick, but McManus reads it well and prevents any damage.
7 min: With some possession, the Dragons have begun to take control of play and have all the field position in attack and defence.
8 min: PENALTY to the Dragons 20 metres out and they opt to play it.
11 min: TRY
TRY to the Dragons!
The red and whites work the ball from sideline to sideline, Matt Cooper with good hands sends the ball to Brett Morris on the left flank to collect the first try of the season perilously close to the corner post. Jamie Soward nails a difficult conversion.
St George Illawarra Dragons 6-2
13 min: Dragons are stamping their authority all over this match, their go forward has been fantastic, but the NEwcastle outside backs have read the kicking games of the St. George halves quite well.
14 min: Knock on in the play the ball called against the Knights who hand over the ball at halfway.
15 min: Knights get out of trouble denying Dragons a completed set.
17 min: Naiqama makes a line break for Newcastle and they are starting to see better territory.
19 min: Newcastle starting to pick up their game in defence as well as they begin to look better territorially.
21 min: A defensive error from Tahu and the Dragons find their way back towards the Newcastle line.
23 min: PENALTY to Newcastle ten shy of halfway against Ben Creagh for a high shot. Excellent opportunity being offered to the Knights here.
24 min: Newcastle attack the St. George Illawarra try line, but come up short as Boyd throws a forward pass.
26 min: Knights play at a ball getting it into touch to gift the Dragons a scrum about 40 out.
28 min: PENALTY to the Dragons as Taia is ruled to have stripped the ball right in front.
29 min: PENALTY GOAL
The Dragons take the two and the shot is too easy for Jamie Soward.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-2
30 min: Dragons gift the ball to the Knights with an incorrect play the ball from Dean Young 40 out from his own line.
30 min: And Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley gifts he ball right back failing to collect a pass.
33 min: Dragons' players failing to correctly read a Soward boot cause an infringement offering Newcastle a 20 metre restart.
35 min: TRY
Try to the Knights!
Mullen from dummy half, dummies and breaks a few lines of St. George Illawarra defence to help himself to a try on the left flank. Gidley fails to convert a difficult shot in the rain.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-6
38 min: Half a break from Tahu and Newcastle are starting to really enjoy their time in attack.
40 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
In the final moments of the half, Soward has a shot and field goal, decent attempt from nearly 50 out, but not straight enough.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-6
40 min: Newcastle had all the momentum in the final stages but go into the interval continuing to trail the Dragons by 2 points. Dragons lead 8 points to 6.
41 min: Second half under way.
42 min: Referee Klein has found a knock on against the Knights and the Dragons are being offered some decent field position.
44 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Dragons TRY.
44 min: NO TRY! After being gifted a try by a Akuilla Uate in goal bungle, Nathan Fein robs himself of a try bobbling it over the line to help Newcastle doge a big bullet.
46 min: Dragons owning the field position again, easily finding their way deep into the Knights' red zone.
47 min: VIDEO REFEREE for a possible Dragons TRY.
49 min: TRY
TRY to the Dragons!
This one is awarded and Matt Cooper collects his first four points of the season. Creagh through a short pass outside cooper who just barged through some lack lustre defence to claim the try. Soward makes easy work of the conversion.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14-6
50 min: Fein kicks the ball out out on the full to hand Newcastle a scrum at halfway and an opportunity to hit back.
51 min: Mullen attempts to offload ten metres out, but Beau Scott is there to intercept it for the Dragons.
54 min: Gidley grubbers toward the in goal and Stanley runs in to collect it, but hits it into his face and it rebounds back to Newcastle players.
56 min: Some biff and now the referee is looking into matters and Timana Tahu is penalised and put on report.
58 min: Dragons with most of the momentum, but Newcastle still able to create opportunities.
59 min: Stanley again attacking the ball has another one pop out back to the opposition.
62 min: TRY
TRY to the Knights!
Timana Tahu side steps, sells a dummy and sends the ball out to James McManus to score the first Newcastle try of the half. The conversion from Gidley is well struck and sails through the posts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14-12
63 min: de Bellin makes a break for the Dragons creating an opportunity for them to hit right back.
65 min: The contest here is developing quite nicely heading into the final 15 minutes, with both teams fighting hard to get their season off to a winning start.
67 min: Uate looks to make a break but is stopped by a superb effort from Hornby.
67 min: Danny Buderus knocks on to hand the Dragons an opportunity, gifting them a scrum.
68 min: Superb Knights defence off the back of the scrum bundles the Dragons player into touch.
70 min: Beautiful effort from the Dragons in goal and they find their way out before Knights force the error and find a great opportunity.
71 min: PENALTY to the Knights and they are right on the attack here.
72 min: PENALTY GOAL
Another PENALTY to the Knights and this time they opt to take the two from right in front, Gidley collects the points and scores are level for the first time this match.
75 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Soward has a shot at field goal but it is pushed wide.
75 min: Cuthburtson loses the ball and gifts the Dragons an excellent opportunity.
76 min: Dragons attacking the Newcastle line and UAte is forced to knock the ball dead for the first line drop out of the season.
77 min: Dean Young knocks on 20 out from the Newcastle line and the Knights get a throw of the dice.
79 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT
Jarrod Mullen has a shot at field goal from 2 shy of halfway and he can't get enough on it as it falls short.
80 min: Matt Cooper knocks the ball a mile forward and Newcastle will have the last set in normal time.
80 min: The hooter blows and scores remain level so the season opener will go into golden point extra time.
81 min: Gidley kicks off the extra time.
82 min: Comedy of errors, Knights get the scrum feed and here's an opportunity for them 40 out from the Dragons' line.
83 min: Cuthbertson knocks on and the Dragons are let off the hook.
84 min: Knights put in a superb defensive set, but can't back it up with ball in hand as Taia knocks on on his own 40 metre line.
85 min: FIELD GOAL
Soward goes for his easiest shot at field goal of the night and this time collects it to give the Dragons the first victory of the season.
St George Illawarra Dragons 15-14
85 min: As the ball sails through the uprights, the fat lady sings and the Dragons collect the first 2 points of the season winning their first match of the season 15 points to 14.