Round 4: Knights v Dragons preview
What a tasty delight to round off Round 4! St George Illawarra, fresh from their success at Suncorp, make the trip to the Hunter to face the Knights, after their opening weekend euphoria which they haven't replicated since.
The Knights have been a jigsaw with a single piece jammed into the wrong spot. Ponga to playmaker has failed, so now he switches to fullback which - hopefully for Nathan Brown - makes a clear picture for Newcastle.
Errors also played a telling role in their defeats to Panthers and Raiders. Last week they only completed at 70%, combined with a lack of possession - and that means you're going to have a bad time. Against a big Saints team, you need to complete to lay a platform for Mitchell Pearce and Ponga to get them on top and make it a Sunday delight.
For the Dragons, it is more change, as they have lost their fullback Gareth Widdop to a long-term injury. This brings Matt Dufty back into the fold. For the sanity of Saints fans, that SHOULD be the end of this rotation shenanigans for the spine. Now, can they back up their impressive result in Brisbane against a punchy Knights side that will be keen to not take another home loss.
Key to that will be Corey Norman. The off-season recruit has divided opinion in his first three contests with some sublime moments - notably the field goal last Thursday - but the combination with former Bronco team mate Ben Hunt hasn't clicked yet. Now, without the spectre of Widdop looming overhead like Damocles, Saints fans hope he can match his contract and continue the march up the table.
Who to watch: Come on down.. Matt Dufty! The livewire who has started off the bench in the first fortnight gets his chance at the custodian role with the long-term injury to Gareth Widdop. Dufty should give the Dragons some extra zip at the back starting off sets, and like in 2018 when he chimed into the attack, he left some defenders clutching at air. This might be needed to kickstart the Dragons season and secure back-to-back victories.
Similarly, for the home side, it's fullback's back alright! The Kalyn Ponga halves experiment was deemed a "failure" during the week as the superstar switches back to his preferred position. In the halves, Ponga looked lost and it made the Knights look like a 90s band returning for a reunion tour - a little slower and not a pleasing spectacle at all - so now Ponga will kick sets off. It gives the Knights a perfect platform to build on and allows the talent to pick his spots rather than carry a huge workload.
My tip: Coming off their blockbuster victory against Brisbane last weekend, it has to be St George. They travel to the Hunter sans Widdop but confident in the spine against a disjointed Knights side that hasn't looked good this season. Dragons by 2.