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Return Of The "Mad Dog"
Former international winger Adam MacDougall made a triumphant return to the National Rugby League to help Newcastle to a last-minute 32-30 win over St George Illawarra Friday night at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
Newcastle's champion halfback and captain Andrew Johns converted MacDougall's third try from the sideline after the fulltime siren to win it for the Knights.
Tryscoring freak Nathan Blacklock was so nearly the hero for the Dragons, having crossed for a try scoring double in his first premiership match in more than 12 months.
MacDougall had only played a handful of minutes since the 2001 NRL grand final due to a knee injury before running on for the Knights tonight.
Blacklock was also making a comeback, playing his first match in the top grade since switching codes again last month.
Blacklock, the NRL's leading tryscorer from 1999-2001, crossed for the 101st and 102nd career four pointers in the sixth and 39th minutes to have the Dragons in a strong position leading 18-6 at the break.
But three tries in six minutes straight after the break vaulted Newcastle back into the lead.
As ever, Johns initiated the Knights' revival, swivelling his way over in the 42nd minute.
NSW hooker Danny Buderus created Newcastle's next two tries with near carbon copy plays down the left side.
First, Buderus darted from dummy-half and issued a great one-arm pass for MacDougall, who raced 30m to cross in the corner.
Johns landed the conversion to leave the Knights trailing 18-16 after 44 minutes.
Two minutes later, Buderus went left to NSW teammate Ben Kennedy, who found MacDougall, who sped downfield before sending fullback Mark Hughes on a 50m run to the line.
Johns added the extras and suddenly the home team was in front.
But just as the Knights seemed set to go further ahead as they attacked the St George Illawarra line feverishly on the last tackle, Newcastle winger Timana Tahu threw an intercept pass to Dragons centre Matt Cooper, who sprinted nearly the length of the field to score under the posts.
Replacement hooker Mark Riddell's conversion made it 24-22 to the Dragons.
Buderus was held up over the line on the hour mark and then Dragons prop Jason Ryles, a dramatic late starter after withdrawing yesterday with a shoulder injury, pounced on a Dean Byrne kick to score.
Riddell again slotted the conversion and the Dragons appeared set for victory leading 30-22 with 13 minutes remaining.
But MacDougall's second four-pointer of the night gave the Knights hope - again - before "Mad Dog" sent the home crowd of almost 20,000 into a frenzy when he completed his hat-trick with 30 seconds left on the clock.
The fabulous victory came at a cost for Newcastle.
Young second rower Clint Newton was stretchered off in the second half with a possible lower leg fracture.
And prop Josh Perry was placed on report in the second minute of an eventful first half for an elbow to the head of Dragons captain Lance Thompson.
Perry has already been suspended this season for face-raking Wests Tigers veteran Terry Hill.