If Krisnan Inu was the mid-season buy of 2012, then Josh Dugan is already shaping up as one of the best purchases of this year.
In a game of few opportunities, the former Raiders fullback scored two spectacular second half tries and kicked two goals to seal an unlikely victory for the Dragons.
St George-Illawarra trailed until the 72nd minute and this win continues their incredible record at Hunter Stadium. The Dragons have now won their last nine matches on the Central Coast, dating back to 2004. It is the longest active away winning streak in the NRL.
They also managed to spoil the party for former mentor Wayne Bennett. Last night the Queenslander took the all time record for most NRL games coached, moving ahead of Tim Sheens (669) with his 670th match.
Newcastle had been on the cusp of the top four before their surprise loss to the Warriors two weeks ago, which was followed by last week's defeat at the hands of Souths. St George have a fairly unspectacular roster and have had a tough season, though this result moves them off the bottom of the table.
It was an ordinary first half. The Dragons came the closest to scoring, twice having tries ruled out by the video referee; once justifiably as Josh Dugan touched the sideline, once confusingly as Brett Morris seemed to score a legitimate touchdown. They slightly shaded the half but there was a real lack of quality.
The Dragons have struggled offensively all season, before last night they had the second worst attacking record (only behind the Tigers) in the competition. Coach Steve Price took the radical step of dropping Jamie Soward, who has been the fulcrum of the Dragons' attack for several years.
Chase Stanley took his place and made a promising start; he gave the Dragons' backline a more direct thrust and provided a genuine threat with the ball in hand, something that Soward rarely offers.
The first try of a dour contest took 48 minutes to arrive with Joseph Leilua crossing in the corner after quick hands from Darius Boyd. It gave the home side an 8-0 lead and in the context of this match, it seemed like a veritable mountain to climb. Dugan started the comeback with a spectacular take of a Nathan Fien bomb in the 56th minute, catching it AFL style way above his head. He went one better in the 77th minute, slicing through four defenders in a 20-metre burst close to the line to claim the win.
Knights 8 (J. Leilua try; T. Roberts 2 goals)
Dragons 14 (J. Dugan 2 tries; J. Dugan 2 goals, C. King goal). Halftime: 4-0.