Water feeling: New Knights halves combo slays Dragons

Jasper Bruce |

Dylan Lucas slides home for Newcastle’s fourth first-half try in their 30-10 win over the Dragons.
Dylan Lucas slides home for Newcastle’s fourth first-half try in their 30-10 win over the Dragons.

Newcastle may have found their halves combination, after Jackson Hastings and Jack Cogger eased pressure on the Knights by inspiring a 30-10 defeat of St George Illawarra amid wet and wild conditions.

In torrential rain at their McDonald Jones Stadium home, the Knights controlled the majority of Friday night’s game, their attack looking the best it has all season – thanks largely to their third unique halves pairing in five games.

Last season’s semi-finalists were staring down the possibility of a 1-4 record but confirmed their second win of the year with a solid defensive display after halftime.

Ponga slides and scores
Kalyn Ponga slides and splashes over for a try as the Knights slayed the Dragons. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Knights coach Adam O’Brien hinted he would name the same halves pairing against the Sydney Roosters in round six, with Tyson Gamble likely to play NSW Cup for a second week running.

“I’ll have a look at what Tyson Gamble did in reserve grade, from all reports he played a big part in that, but at the moment, those two halves can hold their head up,” O’Brien said.

“We got a win, we got a quite comfortable win. I don’t need to go executing anyone this week.”

The Dragons’ mixed start to 2024 continued and they will sweat on the availability of Jack Bird after the centre appeared to injure his left knee.

Early signs are that Bird’s injury is not severe, but he did not return after falling awkwardly in a tackle from Hastings just after halftime.

In his first game since the Dragons granted his release request, the unsettled Zac Lomax was one of few exceptions as the visitors struggled to adapt to the slippery conditions.

Newcastle poked holes in the Dragons’ goal-line defence for fun in the first half, forcing Shane Flanagan to switch Lomax to fullback and put Tyrell Sloan on the wing for part of the second half.

The irony would not have been lost on Lomax, whose frustration with his move to the wing had triggered his desire to move on.

The Dragons went scoreless after the 22nd minute but the Knights had no such execution issues in the wet.

“We didn’t try to play too expansive, we played to the conditions,” O’Brien said.

“It’s not rocket science.”

When Sloan coughed up the first of many grubber kicks from Cogger, Hastings pounced on the loose ball and opened the scoring on return from his two-week spell in NSW Cup.

Enari Tuala added a second try before Cogger, taking on the bulk of kicking responsibilities, landed a grubber in a puddle and Daniel Saifiti slid through to extend the hosts’ advantage.

An inside ball from Hastings to Dylan Lucas helped stretch the halftime lead to 14 points.

The Dragons looked most dangerous when Lomax and Ben Hunt were linking up on the right edge, as they did for the side’s only two tries of the night.

Hunt grubbered through the line to help the winger score Saints’ first, before a freakish no-look flick pass from Lomax put the halfback in for their second.

But when Ponga quite literally slid over for the Knights’ fifth try in the final 10 minutes, the hosts were home.

“We’re not consistent enough and we need to find out why,” said Flanagan.

“Tonight there were tricky conditions, but it’s not an excuse.”