TRY TIME: Jason Nightingale scores for the Dragons.IT was shaping as perhaps Newcastle’sbest win under the coaching of Nathan Brown. It finished as one of their most demoralising defeats.
Having led St George Illawarra 28-10 at half-time in Sunday’s round-16 clash at Kogarah Oval, the Knights imploded to lose 32-28, leaving them equal last on the ladder with Wests Tigers, who have one extra win to their name.
Brown said the last 30 minutes of the first half, when Newcastle responded toa 10-0 deficit with four rapid-fire tries, was “as good as I’ve seen us”.
But their capitulation after the break, as the Dragons gained the ascendancy, was exactly the opposite.
“We’ve been beaten up a few times over the [past] 18 months, but that was as disappointed as I’ve been,’’ Brown said.
Brown said Newcastle, who have won only three of their past 40 games, were not used to holding such a large lead at the change of ends.
“None of them boys have ever led 28-10 at half-time,’’ Brown said.
“They don’t know what it’s all about, unfortunately.”
Adding to Newcastle’s woes, Brown admitted “we’ve certainly got a few blokes that are a bit wounded” as they prepare for Sunday’s home clash with the Tigers, which is likely to decide who collects the wooden spoon.
“Luke Yates is going to be our worst one,’’ Brown said. “He’s done something pretty bad to his AC [shoulder].”
Searching for their first away win in almost two years, Newcastle conceded a10-0 lead after two Jason Nightingale tries in the first eight minutes.
But then, thanks largely to a hat-trick from new fullback Nathan Ross, the Knights staged a stunning turnaround.
Ross’s treble, combined with tries from Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Brendan Elliot and four goals from Brock Lamb, lifted the Knights 18 points clear.
The home crowd booed the Dragons, who were coming off lacklustre defeats by Parramatta and Canterbury, fromthe field at half-time.
But the momentum swungwhen back-rower Joel Thompson scored in the 47thminute and skipper Gareth Widdop converted.
Five minutes later, fullback Josh Dugan scored from dummy-half, Widdop landed the goal, and the game was back in the balance.
A quick penalty tap from Dugan three minutes later put the Dragons on the front foot again and they soon created an overlap for Nightingale to score his third try.
From the sideline, Widdop converted to lock scores up.
Former Knights under-20s player Kurt Mann scored to put the home side back in the lead, 32-28.
Two minutes from full-time, Newcastle had a chance to snatch victory but lock Mitch Barnett coughed up a tough pass.