On a wet and windy Easter Saturday night the Newcastle Knights lost 13-0 to the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural Alex McKinnon Cup.
In what was a game that was hampered by weather conditions, the Knights struggled to build substantial pressure against a Dragons side that was resolute in defence if not particularly adventurous in attack.
The Knights started the game in the best way possible when Kurt Gidley collected Tyrone Roberts' shot kick-off, 30 metres out from the Dragons' line. It didn't turn to points though when Gidley lost control of a slippery pass ten metres out.
The Knights survived a concerted attack from the Dragons at their own end, but kickers from both sides were clearly struggling with swirling winds at the end of sets.
It was Mullen that came up with the first good kick of the game in the 8th minute, placing a low ball in the in-goal that Jason Nightingale had to palm out of play.
The men in red and blue came close to scoring in the subsequent set, only for Jeremy Smith to be held up over the line.
It was Akuila Uate who was only scant centimetres away next, breaking through on the final play of the set only to be held up short by Josh Dugan.
The continued pressure didn't end up paying off for the Knights, as it was the Dragons who scored first in the 16th minute via Eto Nabuli. On the back of a Dragons repeat set the left winger received a ball from centre Dylan Farrell to cross over in the corner. Gareth Widdop was unable to convert, keeping the score at 4-0.
The Knights continued to push but a strong northerly wind blowing against them was proving to be their worst enemy.
It was on the back of a Dragons' knock-on in the 34th minute that the Knights got their next solid chance, only for Roberts to carry the ball too far wide by himself and get hauled out of play by a resolute Dragons defence.
Chances for both sides were proving few and far between, however the away side came up with what looked like a gilt-edged opportunity when a sliding Tyson Frizell planted down a grubber with six minutes to play in the first half. Video replays showed that he never had control of the ball though, and the Knights escaped with a twenty-metre tap.
The Dragons soon came knocking again, and Chris Houston was caught out with a high tackle on Widdop. Widdop elected for a penalty kick, and the Dragons took a 6-0 lead into the sheds at half time.
The Knights started the second half in much the same way they began the first, using three penalties in quick succession to roll up the field. It was looking promising for the Knights, only for Dugan to clamp down on Roberts' kick and put an end to what had been a promising passage of play.
Beau Scott was forced from the field in the 57th minute with an injury to his lower leg, Houston coming back on to the plug the hole.
Two minutes later Dugan fumbled a Gidley grubber ten metres out, giving the Knights their first solid opportunity for some time. Despite plenty of movement the men in red and blue were again unable to make anything of their chance.
The Dragons made them pay with seventeen minutes left to play, Dugan fending off several defenders to score on the right edge. Widdop did well to convert, pushing the score to 12-0.
Dugan fumbled from the kick-off and again the Knights found themselves with a good opportunity ten metres out. Uate looked sure to score on the right side, but ran out of space as he approached the line and was bundled out of play.
Sione Mata'utia lost the ball returning a kick in the following set, and suddenly the Knights found themselves defending their own line again.
It wasn't a try that the Dragons were after however, with Benji Marshall electing for an easy field-goal in front of the uprights to push the score to 13-0.
The Knights continued to push, but the score remained the same when the full-time siren sounded.
Dragons 13 (T: Nebuli, Dugan, G: Widdop 1/2, PG: 1/1, FG: Marshall 1/1)