Knights coach Nathan Brown says that barring injury the Newcastle spine is settled for round one and, while they have plenty to work on, a positive performance in their first match together represents "a good starting point".
Newcastle eventually went down 18-10 but the second 40 was contested between two largely reserve-grade line-ups, with the Knights edging the NRL portion of the trial 10-6.
Kalyn Ponga looked far more assured in the No.6 jersey than in a hit-and-miss performance for the Maori All Stars last week.
He threw a lovely ball to put Lachlan Fitzgibbon over for one try and linked well with Mitch Pearce out on the left to put Edrick Lee over for another.
Ponga sets up Fitzgibbon
Fullback Connor Watson, in his first game since a season-ending injury last year and his first at fullback since 2017, had plenty of good touches and was safe under the high ball in an appearance his coach described as "quite competent".
Danny Levi has also done enough to claim the No.9 jersey for round one, looking dangerous with a strong forward pack in front of him while recruit Kurt Mann spent time at both hooker and centre and appears certain to be the bench utility for round one.
"That [spine combination] won't be changing, touch wood they all come through next week healthy and put in a solid performance, that will be the spine for round one I'd imagine," Brown said after the game.
"They (the halves) created a couple of tries in that first half so that was pleasing. We overplayed our hand a couple of times as well.
"Not surprisingly, it's their first time together but for their first game it's a good starting point, Connor was quite competent at fullback so it was a good starting point for all of them. Something to build on."
Slick shift sends Lee over
Ponga showed a heavy preference for the left side of the field and although it paid dividends on a couple of occasions, he will need to develop his right side play, according to Brown. Centre recruit Jesse Ramien saw very little ball out to the right but Brown was confident the former Shark would get more involvement once the season proper gets underway.
"That's certainly something we're going to need to do and Kalyn's going to have move around the field a lot more but as a whole if you're scoring enough you're scoring enough, it doesn't really matter what side," Brown said.
"KP is one of our better players and your better players need to get the ball in their hands when you create momentum so hopefully as time goes on they know, with KP going over the other side of the field and the combination with Junior (Pearce) and Connor, hopefully that sort of possession rate evens out a little bit and hopefully we can get the ball in Jesse's hands earlier on and at the line because he can beat people himself and create opportunity. These things will take time."
Pearce was happy to swing to the left and Brown was keen to see the halves combine on both flanks once they get more comfortable.
"We'll definitely have them moving around the field, we're not going to be locking them in and those combinations will take a bit of time to grow," he added.
"We're confident regardless of the position KP is playing him and Junior will play good footy together and you saw today there was a couple of nice tries where they both had involvements. That will happen over time but won't be perfect from the start."
Match Highlights: Dragons v Knights
With a howling wind making life tough for kickers and outside backs alike, Watson's assuredness under the high ball was a welcome sign.
"Our back three, that first 40 minutes in particular, they had a bit asked of them because of the conditions and where they were receiving the ball," Brown said.
"I thought all five with our two centres got us out of trouble quite well which is good, Edrick [Lee] was probably one of our standout players."
Brown was also pleased that, despite the injection of representative props David Klemmer and Tim Glasby, the local juniors playing in the forwards were able to put their hands up.
"Josh King, he played in that last 30 and he certainly showed he's an improved player," he said.
"Lachie Fitz certainly showed he's looking better in areas of the game where he needed to improve so that was pleasing.
"[Mitch] Barnett worked hard, Daniel Saifiti, the blokes that have been here for a while, we're hopeful that with better role models around them and them preparing better themselves, I think they're going to become more competent players for us which is what we need."