All streaks have to come to an end at some point and that was the case for the Newcastle Knights, with the club no longer undefeated. Their first loss came last night to the St George Illawarra Dragons, in what were tough, wet conditions at Hunter Stadium.
The clash marked the inaugural Alex McKinnon Cup, a game that the Dragons won 13-0 in very wet conditions in Newcastle. It continues a resurgence of sorts for the Dragons, who defended brilliantly and held out a potent Knights attack.
For the Knights, it was the first time they have been held scoreless since Rd 2 of the 2013 NRL season, when they lost 32-0 to the Manly Sea Eagles.
Defence has been the highlight for the Dragons, who have conceded only 1 try in their last 220 minutes. The weather played havoc with the attacking games of both sides and it was the Dragons who managed to hold onto the ball to score.
The loss was compounded for the Knights with an injury to in-form back-rower Beau Scott and the newly returned Tariq Sims put on report for a high tackle.
And despite their win, Dragons fans will be hopeful that there is no serious injury for fullback Josh Dugan, who limped off towards the end of the game.
Defence wins games and with performances like these, Dragons coach Paul McGregor praised his side’s brick wall-like resolve.
“It’s a really good thing for a club when you have your attitude right in ‘D’. To not let Newcastle score in that second half considering the wind, it’s a great pleasure to watch,” McGregor said.
“We turned over the ball a bit and gave them good field position but we just kept turning up for one another. It’s a real credit to the guys. It doesn’t matter how you win, as long you do win.”
It is likely that Tariq Sims faces more time out suspended, having only just returned from a suspension during his time at the Cowboys that carried into this season. Knights coach Rick Stone believes there was not much in it but the judiciary will sort the matter out.
“There’s always concern when someone gets placed on report, especially Taz coming off the back of suspension as it is,” coach Stone said in the aftermath.
“There wasn’t a lot in it. It’s just up to the judiciary to decide on what it’s worth and we’ll have a look at the verdict when it comes through.”
Player of the Game:
3. Josh Dugan
2. Dylan Farrell
1. Trent Merrin
St George Illawarra Dragons 13 (Eto Nabuli, Josh Dugan Tries; Gareth Widdop 2 Goals; Benji Marshall Field Goal) defeat Newcastle Knights 0. Crowd: 14,261. Half-time: Dragons 6-0. On report: 14th minute: Tariq Sims (Knights) â€“ high tackle.