WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA — APRIL 01: Euan Aitken of the Dragons celebrates scoring a try during the round four NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Newcastle Knights at WIN Stadium on April 1, 2018 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA — APRIL 01: Euan Aitken of the Dragons celebrates scoring a try during the round four NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Newcastle Knights at WIN Stadium on April 1, 2018 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Dragons deliver best start in quarter of a century

IT'S been 25 long and tumultuous seasons since the Saints have started the year with four successive wins.

That hasn't happened since way back in 1993.

Paul Keating was Australia's Prime Minister, Shane Warne bowled the ball-of-the-century and plastic $10 notes went into circulation.

Ironically, a member of that St George side was Nathan Brown, the coach in charge of opposition side Newcastle.

The joint venture club has never started with four straight victories.

Widdop has been in top form again this season.
Widdop has been in top form again this season.

At 4-0, St George Illawarra are the real deal. Don't be persuaded otherwise. They weren't great, but simply got the job done.

Just a week after scoring 54 points against Gold Coast, the Dragons posted another big score in the 30-12 win over Newcastle in Wollongong.

Saints scored five tries before a robust Wollongong crowd of 18,589 to secure the Alex McKinnon Cup.

The Dragons have grunt, mongrel, size and speed.

The Dragons ran five tries past the battling Knights.
The Dragons ran five tries past the battling Knights.

"It is good to see how much enjoyment they are getting out of working hard," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.

"I'm certainly impressed how hard they have gone about their work. But we are only a month into the footy season.

"I thought kick-chase was very good. I thought out effort-areas of the game were the best they have been.

"Our execution with the footy in the first 40 minutes was nice. It means nothing if we don't go out and back-up what we did today.

"That's four weeks in a row we have kept sides under 16 points. In the NRL, that's really hard to do."

Newcastle scored the first try but, in crossing the tryline, centre Tautau Moga re-injured his ACL. He will miss the season.

Tautau Moga was injured after scoring the opening try.
Tautau Moga was injured after scoring the opening try.

Moga has already undergone three previous knee reconstructions.

"It's devastating," Knights skipper Mitchell Pearce said. "We're shattered for him."

Knights coach Nathan Brown added: "It was a bad day all-round for us. I feel for him and his family."

It was a cruel blow for a side which lost five-eighth Connor Watson to a long-term shoulder injury. The loss of Watson and Moga will severely test Newcastle's backline depth.

Newcastle's ball control was horrible in patches during the opening half.

It allowed the Dragons to lead 20-12 at halftime, centre Tim Lafai throwing a lovely flick pass for winger Nene Macdonald to score one his two tries.

Macdonald has now scored four tries in four games this season. Saints prop James Graham made 36 tackles and ran for 176 metres.

St George Illawarra are unbeaten after a month.
St George Illawarra are unbeaten after a month.

Brown said rival teams were now preparing better and playing with more focus when confronting the improved and beefed-up Newcastle.

"Any opportunity we got, we turned the ball over meekly," Brown said. "Probably the biggest thing for us at the moment is, obviously we have some better players here, especially after the first two weeks, good sides are coming to play us.

"They're not coming thinking they can go three-quarter pace or at 85 per cent and beat us.

"Which, to be honest, was the case last year."

Saints had a field day in the opening half running down Newcastle's left edge but the Knights showed some ticker throughout the game.

A bullocking try to Dragons giant Leeson Ah Mau sealed the game in the 53rd minute. It was his first try since round 13, 2015.

"We live by certain standards," said Saints skipper Gareth Widdop. "We're enjoying our football. We want to be a consistent football side, like all the top teams.

"We've spoken about it, turning up with the right attitude in defence."

There were only 15 penalties awarded, significantly less than other matches over the past fortnight.

The Dragons and Warriors are only unbeaten teams after four rounds.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 30 (N MacDonald 2 L Ah Mau E Aitken T Sims tries G Widdop 5 goals) bt NEWCASTLE 12 (C Heighington T Moga tries K Ponga 2 goals) at WIN Stadium. Referee: Jon Stone, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 18,589



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