NRL: Dragons hold on to deny Knights

St George Illawarra 20
Newcastle Knights 18

Antonio Kaufusi of the Knights is tackled. Photo / Getty Images
Antonio Kaufusi of the Knights is tackled. Photo / Getty Images

There was no fairytale finish to Newcastle's momentous week with St George Illawarra holding on for a desperate 20-18 NRL victory at Ausgrid Stadium on Sunday.

Just three days after Nathan Tinkler assumed ownership of the club, the Knights were unable to deliver the billionaire mining magnate a first-up win, though they made the premiers fight all the way as they launched a furious second-half fightback.

A try to winger James McManus ten minutes from time had the Knights poised for the upset, but not even the support of a 20,986-strong crowd could get them over the line.

The Dragons looked like they would cruise to victory when Matt Cooper scored three minutes after the restart to put the red and whites up 20-6, but the Knights gave themselves a sniff when Cory Patterson ran through a feeble Mark Gasnier attempted tackle.

Energised by the Patterson four-pointer, the Knights went 99 metres from the restart with prop Antonio Kaufusi stopped just short of the line.

The enthusiasm transferred from the attack to their defence as they kept the Dragons pinned inside their own 20 metre zone, and it was only some desperation from Kyle Stanley to get his hand to a ball which rebounded off his own posts that prevented Gidley bringing the home side within two points with 18 minutes remaining.

Newcastle's perseverance was rewarded when McManus perfectly timed his leap to reel in a Gidley bomb, the skipper's sideline conversion with ten minutes left on the clock setting up a thrilling finish.

Sensing a need to take some of the emotion out of the game the Dragons surprisingly opened the scoring with a early penalty goal, and there was more than a touch of luck to their 19th minute try to Darius Boyd with Jason Nightingale appearing to take out Wes Naiqama in the lead-up.

Gasnier showed what he could do with ball in hand when he delivered a brilliant flick pass for Nightingale to make it 14-0, but Chris Houston brought the Knights within touching distance at the break when he went over after a Jarrod Mullen tapped back to a waiting Richie Fa'aoso.

St George Illawarra 20 (D Boyd M Cooper J Nightingale tries J Soward 4 goals) bt Newcastle Knights 18 (C Houston J McManus C Paterson tries K Gidley 3 goals) at Ausgrid Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Tony De Las Heras. Crowd: 20,986.

- AAP

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