The Newcastle Knights dominated the St George Illawarra Dragons in a 32-12 victory on Saturday night, securing fifth place in the 2023 finals and earning home advantage in the first week of the playoffs. Despite being without key players like star fullback Kalyn Ponga due to a shoulder injury, the Knights showcased their depth and resilience, extending their impressive winning streak to nine games.
Right from the beginning, it was evident that the Knights meant business. In just the second minute of the match, they opened the scoring with a well-executed play on the right side involving Adam Clune and Adam Elliott, culminating in prop Jacob Saifiti touching down for a try. This early momentum set the tone for the rest of the game.
Newcastle’s five-eighth Tyson Gamble then made his presence felt, showcasing his skills with a break through the Dragons‘ defensive line and delivering a perfect pass to center Enari Tuala, who extended the Knights‘ lead to 12-0. Gamble’s performance demonstrated his ability to step up in the absence of key players and take control of the game.
However, the Dragons fought back in the 18th minute when their captain Ben Hunt produced a moment of brilliance, executing a chip and chase try over the stand-in fullback Lachie Miller. This electrifying play ignited the crowd at Kogarah and injected some excitement into the match.
Just before halftime, Knights winger Greg Marzhew joined the party by finishing off a slick attacking move on the left side, scoring his 20th try of the season and increasing the visitors’ lead to 10 points. Marzhew’s consistency throughout the season has been remarkable and his try further solidified the Knights‘ dominance.
The Knights continued their strong showing in the second half, striking early with mid-season recruit Fa’amanu Brown crashing over for his first try as a Knight. His effort was made possible by the lead-up work from center Bradman Best, highlighting the combination and chemistry within the team.
Although the Dragons managed to reduce the deficit in the 66th minute with a try from winger Mikaele Ravalawa in the corner, the match took a chaotic turn. Miller and Dragons forward Blake Lawrie were both sin-binned for professional fouls, creating a frenzied atmosphere on the field.
In the final stages of the game, Knights winger Dominic Young stole the spotlight with two spectacular tries in the last five minutes, sealing Newcastle’s ninth consecutive victory. Young’s impressive performances have made him a key player for the Knights, and his back-to-back tries showcased his speed, agility, and game-changing abilities.
With their win against the Dragons, the Knights now look ahead to the upcoming finals clash, where they could potentially face off against tough opponents such as the Sharks, Roosters, or Raiders. The team’s remarkable winning streak and ability to perform even in the absence of key players bode well for their prospects in the playoffs.