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A stellar defensive performance has seen the St George Illawarra Dragons deny a momentous Newcastle Knights comeback to claim a narrow 20-18 win an Ausgrid Stadium.
In their first home game of the season, which was also the christening of a new grandstand at a re-named Ausgrid Stadium, the Knights looked to be out of the game at 20-6 down in the second half.
That was until a nice hole run from Knights' second rower Cory Paterson in the 53rd minute turned momentum on it's head and ignited a stunning Newcastle revival.
The Knights then camped themselves on the attack and eventually found a way through when winger James McManus latched on to a perfectly weighted Kurt Gidley cross field bomb, reducing the lead to 20-18 and setting up a grandstand finish in the final ten minutes.
However, despite languishing with just 40% of possession, St George Illawarra held strong in the face of a rampaging Knights side that would have overcome most other teams.
The visitor's goal line defence was stoic under immense pressure, confirming their position as one of the better defensive outfits in the competition.
LeagueUnlimited's Man of the Match Award went to Ben Creagh, for a lionhearted effort in a physical clash.
Earlier, the Dragons opened the scoring with a goal after three successive penalties before a Darius Boyd try gave them an 8-nil advantage.
That lead was increased when Mark Gasnier produced a vintage run and flick pass to set up Jason Nightingale in the corner. The Dragons had the running in the first half but a four-pointer on the stroke of halftime to Newcastle's Chris Houston wrestled back some ascendancy.
But the Dragons hit back moments after the break - Matt Cooper strolled over for the simplest of tries after opposing centre Adam MacDougall failed to safely secure the ball.
At 20-6, St George Illawarra looked to have it under control before Newcastle steamed home - unfortunately for a robust home crowd, they fell three points short.
However, they will take many positives heading into next Monday's clash against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium. The Dragons now face the impressive Canterbury at the picturesque Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday April 10.
Newcastle Knights 18 were defeated by St George Illawarra Dragons 20
National Rugby League - Round 4 - Sunday April 3, 2011 2:00pm
Venue: Ausgrid Stadium
Referee: Ben Cummins and Tony De Las Heras
Video Referee: Phil Cooley
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Gavin West
Halftime: Newcastle Knights 6 St George Illawarra Dragons 14
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Ben Creagh
2 Points - Kurt Gidley (3 Conversions)
1 Point - Jason Nightingale (1 Try)
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (18)
Tries: James McManus, Chris Houston, Cory Paterson
Conversions: Kurt Gidley (3/3)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (20)
Tries: Matt Cooper, Darius Boyd, Jason Nightingale
Conversions: Jamie Soward (3/3)
Penalty Goals: Jamie Soward (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary First home game of the 2011 season for Newcastle, who take on the defending premiers St George Illawarra. After an horrendous casualty ward last weekend, the Knights have managed to scrape together a decent looking seventeen but will dearly miss the services of Beau Henry, amongst others, in the halves.
Big crowd here, the new stand looks spectacular at AusGrid Stadium.
Knights: As per progam.
Dragons: Trent Merrin starts for David Gower, while Dean Young makes his return at the expense of Michael Greenfield.
Perfect conditions as the Knights take the field to the sound of a massive roar, they'll be keen for an upset.
1 min: Kick off! Dragons to get the ball, running left to right.
2 min: Knights penalised twice in a row, their enthusiasm is a little misguided at the moment.
2 min: Newcastle start from where they left off last weekend.. Zeb Taia stays down injured in an awkward tackle but he'll play on.
3 min: PENALTY GOAL
Dragons PENALTY GOAL
Newcastle concede a third penalty and Jamie Soward steals a gift two points.
St George Illawarra Dragons 2-0
5 min: The home side get their first chance with possession after a Soward kick rolls dead.
8 min: Matt Cooper gets on the outside of Adam MacDougall, who not surprisingly doesn't have the pace to go with him. Luckily Aku Uate cleans it up.
10 min: Another mistake from the Dragons in their own half, they look off their game today.
15 min: Wes Naiqama comes steaming into the defence on a kick return - shades of Karmichael and Martin Lang in that run.
17 min: St George Illawarra's forwards starting to make inroads up the middle.
19 min: Video referee - possible Dragons try, checking interference in the air, accidental or calculated is the question..
19 min: TRY
Darius Boyd is the first to cross the line! Comes after Wes Naiqama flew high for a bomb but dropped it on the way down after colliding with Jason Nightingale. Jamie Soward converts from the sideline.
St George Illawarra Dragons 8-0
22 min: Dragons have moved on from a lethargic start and are now finding their groove.
23 min: Mullen breaks through on the last tackle but his pass to Kurt Gidley is put down - wasn't a bombed try, there was still plenty of defence in the area.
26 min: TRY
Mark Gasnier turns back the clock in style - he drew in the winger and centre and then flicked it over the top for a flying Jason Nightingale. Brilliant pass. Sowards converts again from the sideline.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14-0
29 min: Jamie Soward's kick stops within a metre of the dead ball line and replays show Aku Uate might have had his foot on the line when he picked up the ball.
33 min: Mark Gasnier passes to himself and then to the opposition - in fielding the ball Kurt Gidley's head touched the sideline but the touch judge missed it entirely. Weird passage of play.
36 min: St George pressing the Knights line, it's been all Dragons in the past ten minutes.
39 min: TRY
Big confidence boosting try for Newcastle just before the break. Marvin Karawana taps back a high kick, it then goes through the hands and out to Chris Houston, who crashes his way to the line. Kurt Gidley converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 14-6
Halftime: The first forty belonged to the Dragons thanks to a lions share of possession. But the Knights have held strong to only concede two tries and that six points just before the break will give them some heart.
41 min: Second half is underway! Can the Knights capitalise on that late momentum..
43 min: Video referee - possible Dragons try..
43 min: TRY
Well it's gone pear shaped for Newcastle. The Dragons throw it around on the last but Adam MacDougall dives on the ball, however, unfortunately he didn't have a good grasp on the ball, it's raked out and passed on to Matt Cooper, who just strolls over. Soward converts.
St George Illawarra Dragons 20-6
46 min: Great work from Jason Nightingale - he sprinted back to take a quick 20 metre tap and then earns his side a penalty.
50 min: Dean Young looks to be in trouble and is limping off the field with a knee problem.
53 min: Two penalties give the Knights prime attacking position right on the Dragons' line.
53 min: TRY
Newcastle get themselves back in the contest thanks to a nice hole run from Cory Paterson and a sharp short ball from Jarrod Mullen. Gidley's conversion shaves the upright and is in.
St George Illawarra Dragons 20-12
56 min: That try may have woken a sleeping giant! Newcastle covering 80 metres in one set.
57 min: Antonio Kaufusi goes within inches of scoring but the Dragons stream in from everywhere to hold him out.
60 min: Nightingale and Boyd put two passes together in an attempt to get in out of the ingoal! But they don't quite make it, goal line drop out and Newcastle have all the running.
62 min: A Newcastle chant reverberates around the stadium - Dragons are under all sorts of pressure.
62 min: Video referee - possible Knights try..
62 min: Kurt Gidley grubbers ahead and nearly gets there first but is denied by a desperate hand from Kyle Stanley.
64 min: St George hold out Newcastle for three consecutive sets - great defence.
67 min: The Dragons hold on for yet another set on their line, the Knights are starting to run out of ideas.
69 min: TRY
The Dragons finally crack and the crowd erupts! A nice cross field kick from Kurt Gidley is fielded and planted by winger James McManus. Gidley converts from the sideline and we have a grandstand finish!
St George Illawarra Dragons 20-18
72 min: Second half possession is just over 60% in favour of Newcastle.
74 min: Jarrod Mullen goes for a 40/20 but it's well covered by Boyd.
75 min: James McManus in the action with another great take, this time in defence looking into the sun.
76 min: Jason Nightingale returns serve with a great catch to diffuse a hairy situation for the Dragons.
79 min: Newcastle pinned deep within their half after a huge Jamie Soward clearing kick.
79 min: The Knights chip across the park but Aku Uate can't field the kick and it rolls out - should be the game for the Dragons with 40 seconds left.
Fulltime: The Dragons hold on by the skin of their teeth in the face of a mammoth comeback from Newcastle. Their defence held strong under all sorts of pressure - that's why they're one of the better sides in the competiton.