The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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On Saturday afternoon down in Wollongong, the Newcastle Pepsi Knights took on the St George Illawarra Dragons in Round 5 action of the Jersey Flegg competition. Both teams went into the match undefeated and only one could come away from the match with their perfect record intact. That team was the Newcastle Knights after a comfortable 34-18 victory.
The Knights started the match with a softening up period, where 4 fights broke out in the opening 15 minutes. This was to be expected as both teams had turned up to play and weren't willing to give an inch. Knights forward Tim Natusch left 3 Dragons players reeling out of tackles as he went on a one-man rampage. He was replaced after 15 minutes, much to the delight of the Dragons players.
In the fifth minute, Knights second rower Cory Patterson steamed onto a flat Luke Walsh pass to crash over beside the posts and give the Knights an early 6-0 advantage. The Dragons opened their account in the 20th minute when Lewis McPhail crossed out wide. He failed to add the conversion from the sideline and 3 minutes later Rota Setu crossed to put the Dragons in front after the Knights invited the home side back into the contest with some dropped ball early in their tackle counts. Knights five-eight Scott Dureau put his side back in front in the 27th minute for good as he buried his way through some lazy Dragons defence from dummy half. Five minutes from halftime Knights centre Matt Cooper scored the first of his hat-trick and after the Luke Walsh conversion, followed by a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time the Knights led 18-8.
Early in the second half, Dragons centre Keith Lulia threatened to get the home crowd going when he gave his side a sniff of victory as they trailed 18-12. Cooper crossed in the 50th minute to give the Knights some more breathing space and when the Dragons replied again through Jason Nightingale just 60 seconds later, it was back to game on. With the Knights struggling to get out of their own half, it was going to take something special for them to get down the Dragons end of the field. Luke Walsh provided that with a booming 40-20 with 7 minutes remaining and when Sam Wooden crossed from the ensuing scrum, the Knights ensured they would remain undefeated after five rounds. Cooper completed the scoring with just four minutes remaining and Walsh's conversion from near touch gave the final scoreline of Knights 34 Dragons 18.
For the Knights, second rower Cory Patterson was outstanding, making metres up the middle every time he touched the ball. Tim Natusch was also brutal and halves Scott Dureau and Luke Walsh steered the Knights well.
Next week the Knights take on the Balmain Tigers.