The nib Newcastle Knights were edged out 32-28 by the St George Illawarra Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Sunday afternoon.
There was announced changes before kick off, and then positional changes at kick off. Nathan Ross lined up fullback, Dane Gagai at right centre and Brendan Elliot on the left wing.
A hat-trick from Ross powered the red and blue to a 28-point first half but it wasn’t enough, as the home side piled on 22 unanswered points in the second stanza to stage a comeback win.
The Dragons opened the scoring account early with winger Jason Nightingale running the left side for their first try before quickly recording the double via a pin-point grubber, to lead the Knights 10-0 after seven minutes.
In the 20th minute, the Knights hit back through Ross off a quick play-the-ball. Brock Lamb nailed the conversion and the Dragons led 10-6.
Minutes later, a handy offload by halfback Jaelen Feeney again lands in the hands of Ross to dive over. With Lamb's conversion, the Knights took the lead 12-10.
Minutes later it was almost a hat-trick for the Knights fullback, but the bunker ruled a knock-on. Newcastle retained possession as the Dragons' were penalised for holding Dane Gagai back in the contest.
A flat and fast play rewarded forward Lachlan Fitzgibbon the Knights' third try in the 26th minute, before an impressive pick-up of a dropped ball saw Ross accelerate for a near length of the field try, to record a hat-trick. The Knights extended their margin 22-10.
The wave of momentum continued for the Knights, a fortunate bounce landing in the hands of captain Sione Mata’utia, who dished off out wide to Brendan Elliot to lead 26-10 after 33 minutes.
Minutes later the Dragons dropped the ball and gave away a penalty on their try line, which the Knights kicked for two points to lead 28-10 at the half time break.
Minutes into the second half, the Dragons’ Joel Thompson scored of a precision grubber from Gareth Widdop, before Josh Dugan crashed through the Knights' line in the 52nd minute. The Knights kept the lead, 28-22.
The hat-trick came for Nightingale in the 58th minute, as he crossed over out wide to level the score at 28-all before a weaving Kurt Mann crashed over the line in the 67th minute. The Dragons took the lead 32-28.
A disallowed try to St George Illawarra keep the Knights in it but the red and blue unable to get the last say and were defeated 32-28.
Newcastle Knights 28 (T: Ross 3, Fitzgibbon, Elliot, G: Lamb 3/5, PG: 1)
St George Illawarra Dragons 32 (T: Nightingale 3, Thompson, Dugan, Mann, G: Widdop 4/6)
Next up, after being away for six weeks, the Knights return to McDonald Jones Stadium to take on the Wests Tigers.