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PREVIEW: Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons

Two teams on two very different paths. The Dragons finally put a stop to their poor run of form and will be looking at a run to the finals, whilst the Knights season has been thus far all about improvement and whilst they sit only one point higher than the same time last season the gains they’ve made are worth more than competition points. The Dragons fans will be looking for a big win with the side sitting only two points clear of 9th placed Penrith Panthers, in comparison the Knights faithful still dream of another win this season.

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Last Time Out

The Red V’s season seemed to be doomed as they endured a six week period with only the one win and after such a strong start to the season missing the finals was looking like a real possibility, the side needed something to turn their fortunes around and as it does so often an injury (to Josh Dugan) opened the door to a new star, that star was Matt Dufty.

Dragons fans have been crying out to see Dufty in First Grade this year and it didn’t take long to see why, 15 runs for 188m gained mixed with two line breaks and two try assists plus a try in the final minutes to top it off the Dragons have a new star and their season has new life. A 50-22 win over the High flying Sea Eagles has the Dragons back on track and although Coach Mary McGregor will be happy to be back in the winners circle he will be concerned with the side letting in four unanswered tries after halftime.

Newcastle traveled down to the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney to take on the Top 4 Roosters side missing half their spine but this gave the Knight’s fans a chance to check out incoming 5/8 Connor Watson who showed his new team mates what he will bring to the side with 144m, two line breaks and a try. The Knights as they have done all season impressed in the first half against their more fancied opponents, although they’re attack was ‘clunky’ at times they played tough and their forwards stood up to the Roosters pack as they trailed a respectable scoreline of 12-4 at the break. The Knights have struggled with their second halves all season and the trend continued after a ‘controversial’ try to the Roosters in the 61st minute to Daniel Tupou their heads dropped and so did their game as they went down 28-4.

How They Match Up

The Dragons love this fixture and will be banking on these two competition points as they continue their push to the finals, history shows they love playing the Knights especially at McDonald Jones Stadium. 18 matches played and 15 wins for the Red & White will make them feel right at home this coupled with the fact they’ve won 9 of the last 10 encounters you can’t argue the Dragons are the Knights ‘bogey’ side.

The Knights will take some confidence in the fact they’ve played well at home this season and can expect a crowd upwards of 16,000 cheering them on. They will also try to focus on the first half of the previous meeting this season where a Nathan Ross hat-trick gave them a 28-10 halftime lead. The Dragons will want to focus on the second half where they came storming back into the match to take a four point win.

The Knights will do well to try to limit the amount of offloads the Dragons make, it’s no secret the Knights have been hurt by allowing teams to offload especially in the second halves when their young players struggle to match the fitness of their more experienced opponents. They did a good job last Friday holding the Roosters to just the 10 offloads, but will be wary of the Dragons who offloaded 23 times against Manly and with the dangerous Dufty following the likes of Vaughan, Frizell & Lafai  Nathan Brown will no doubt be drumming it into his players to wrap the ball up.

The Knights will be banking on the continual improvement of their young side and boisterous home crowd to lead them to victory. Players like Sione Mata’utia, Mitch Barnett & the Saifiti twins have shown improvements each week shown in their stats, Sione being the key man this week following consecutive 100m performances. The Knights will likely target the Dragons left side defence where they scored three first half tries in the previous encounter.


All signs point to a Dragons victory History, current form, experience & ladder positions so the Dragons are expected to win this game and win well. The Knights will have other ideas and with Nathan Brown being a smart tactician and after playing Saints already this season he will have identified where to attack the Saints. The Knights will also be riding high on some positive news with some New Signings and the Wests ownership agreement there will a good feeling around the team and crowd. But I still expect The Dragons to be too strong on the back of their bog pack and some brilliance from Gareth Widdop and Matt Dufty. Saints to win in a high scoring affair.

Team News

The Dragons welcome back Josh Dugan this week and coach McGregor will avoid a selection headache with Euan Aitken dropping out with injury Dugan will slip into the right centre position and Matt Dufty remaining at Fullback. They’ll also be happy to welcome back Joel Thompson after he missed last week. The Knights on the other hand will be hoping Jake Saifiti can recover from his calf strain and push his way into the final 17, the Knights are thin up front and struggled to match the Roosters after Jake’s twin Daniel & Josh King were replaced. They are also forced into making another change with Chanel Mata’utia missing out with concussion being replaced by Ken Sio.


Knights: 1. Nathan Ross 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Shaun Kenny-dowall 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jamie Buhrer 10. Josh King 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Joe Wardle 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Danny Levi 15. Luke Yates 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 17. Mickey Paea 18. Jack Cogger 19. Sam Stone 20. Brendan Elliott 21. Jacob Saifiti

Dragons: 1. Matthew Dufty 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Josh Dugan 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Josh McCrone 8. Leeson Ah Mau 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin 14. Tariq Sims 15. Jacob Host 16. Russell Packer 17. Kurt Mann 18. Blake Lawrie 19. Taane Milne 20. Luciano Leilua 21. Jake Marketo

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