St George Illawarra were booed by their home fans at halftime on Sunday but by fulltime the Red V faithful were singing in the stands.
The Dragons saved themselves from embarrassment against 15th-placed Newcastle at UOW Jubilee Oval with a memorable fightback to snatch a 32-28 NRL win.
Newcastle were steaming to victory after bolting to a 28-10 lead at the break thanks to a first-half hat-trick from fullback Nathan Ross.
But following two straight losses and teetering on the edge of the top eight, Paul McGregor’s side emphatically stepped up to the challenge.
“It wasn’t about winning, it was about going out there and playing the good footy that I knew we can,” McGregor said.
“The win would be the bonus.
“You’ve got to hold the footy and earn the right and open the opposition up to fatigue. We did that in the second 40 minutes and it’ll kick-start us.”
Their big guns stood up when it counted as they ran in four unanswered tries in the second half.
Five-eighth Gareth Widdop was the orchestrator while the Dragons’ NSW contingent of Tyson Frizell and Josh Dugan – backing up four days after State of Origin game two – were inspirational.
After losing leading metre-eater Paul Vaughan, who was playing his 100th game, in the third minute to a right calf injury, Frizell stood up to lead the Dragons’ charge.
He finished with 136m from 11 carries and 17 tackles while Dugan ran for 246m as well as barging over for an important try in the 52nd minute that got the Dragons back within six points.
Frizell was wearing an ice pack on his knee after the game after twisting his leg in a tackle but insisted he would be fine.
Dragons winger Jason Nightingale crossed for three tries – taking him to 101 career four-pointers and third on the club’s all-time trying scoring list – including a first-half double which saw them race out to a 10-point lead.
There was plenty to like about Newcastle’s 20-minute stint to end the first half in which they ran in five tries however coach Nathan Brown said he’d never been more disappointed in his 18-month stint as coach.
“We’re just not good enough or strong enough at the moment to play for long enough,” Brown said.
“It’s not playing for 80 minutes, we can’t play for 60 minutes.
“At the end of the day Dugan and Frizell lifted and we just don’t have players who could lift with them. They got them home.”
The Knights also have injury concerns with Luke Yates suffering what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury.
Read more at http://wwos.nine.com.au/2017/06/25/16/02/red-v-fight-back-to-break-knights-hearts#ZytVG1JJSE6y1G9D.99