Saints go hobbling into September after Pereira's game-turning heroics

Saints go hobbling into September after Pereira's game-turning heroics


St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor was just happy to collect the two points and head straight back down the M1 Motorway.

"We did it the hard way, didn't we?'' said McGregor, as his Dragons withstood a spirited Mitchell Pearce-led Newcastle to triumph 24-14.

The Dragons were staring down the barrell of their seventh loss in nine games.

You have to wonder what kind of afternoon it would have been at McDonald Jones Stadium had rookie winger Jordan Pereira not produced a bell-ringer on Mitch Barnett to deny a certain try.


The Dragons are hobbling rather than marching into September.


But McGregor gave some good reasons as to why the Red V can leave their rivals with red faces in the coming weeks.

McGregor also gets to play his trump card in skipper Gareth Widdop, who would have played against the Knights had a top-four spot still been up for the grabs.

As it stands, the Dragons sit in sixth and will remain there – with a home elimination final – should the Broncos not win by 22 points or more.

When Fairfax Media asked McGregor why the Dragons can do something special in the coming weeks, he said: "You saw some of it today with our 'D'.

"We wanted to really get back to being a strong defensive side, which we were for 16 rounds.

"We haven't been that of late. Today was a part of that. We found it at different stages.

"We need to be better, there's no doubt about that, but next week is a different competition. She's knockout footy, so both teams are level.

"We've also beaten all the teams that are in there, so why not?

"We get 'Gaz' back next week, so our attack will improve straight away.''

Widdop suffered a shoulder injury a few weeks ago and will take the pressure off Ben Hunt.

Early running: Ken Sio crosses out wide for the Knights.

Early running: Ken Sio crosses out wide for the Knights.Credit:AAP

Hunt was OK on Saturday, but his opposite No. 7, Mitchell Pearce, completely outplayed him.

If Pearce had not broken down with a pectoral injury earlier this year, the Knights were entitled to be pushing for a finals berth. There are good times ahead for the Knights. Pearce will spend a rare September enjoying a holiday.

For the Dragons, they trailed 10-2 at the break, but teen rookie Zac Lomaz should have been awarded a first-half try. The poor kid also missed a simple penalty goal from right in front.


McGregor praised the defence, especially when his side turned the Knights away from their own line tme and again, and after they had conceded an embarrassing 38 points at home just six days earlier.

"We had no possession in the first half, no field position, just like the other eight weeks before it, but we found a way today, which was good,'' McGregor said.

"We only missed 14 tackles all game. From that [perspective], great, but the errors and penalties, not so great.''

The Pereira hit could not be underestimated. The Knights were pressing for more points, and looked likely to build on their 10-8 lead, only for Pereira to smash Barnett with a driving tackle. He did not miss.

Four minutes later the Dragons scored through a long-range Nene Macdonald try, and never surrendered that lead.

"That's one of the game-changers you have when you're short on numbers and you come up with a big play like that,'' McGregor said of his seven-game winger.

"He made the right tackle at an important time.

"It was good for him and his confidence going forward.''

The Dragons led the competition for so long this season before getting the jitters. Jitters are not uncommon at the joint venture.

Euan Aitken and Jason Nightingale also remain hopes of a return.

Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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