Dragons reveal round one bolter in win over Knights
JUST eight weeks after joining the club, $2 million man Corey Norman has been chosen to steer St George Illawarra to a premiership.
The high-profile Parramatta recruit pulled on the Red V for the first time, playing five-eighth, in a quality trial match against Newcastle at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.
Norman's new combination with Saints halfback Ben Hunt was not only promising on debut - it suddenly provided the Dragons with greater balance in attack and potency, with club captain Gareth Widdop set to start the season at fullback.
Without the pressure of organising his side, Widdop wore the No.1 jumper against Newcastle and looked dangerous as he floated in and out of the attacking structure.
Korbin Sims and Paul Vaughan were outstanding for the Dragons, and Daniel Saifiti and Danny Levi stood out for Newcastle.
The Dragons also unearthed a round one bolter in the shape of Fijian winger Mikaele Ravalawa.
The powerful 21-year-old was a menace for the Knights' defence, scoring two tries in just 40 minutes.
Big off-season signings David Klemmer and Jesse Ramien were quiet by their standards on debut.
The Knights' new-look halves combination of Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga that showed great promise.
The duo inspired the Knights to a 10-6 half-time lead with some classy control of their side.
Ponga's try-assist, with a beautiful pass for edge backrower Liam Fitzgibbon, was all special.
Both clubs rested their NRL stars in the second half and it was the Dragons' young guns, led by Reece Robson and Matt Dufty at fullback, who drove the home side to a hard-fought 18-10 victory.
Maybe it was a case of excited energy and too many chefs managing to spoil the broth.
But the Dragons' attack was noticeably poor at the end of their attacking sets when inside the Knights' 10m zone.
On three occasions, the Dragons blundered try-scoring opportunities, which in an NRL match is unacceptable.
The first was an obstruction call against Tariq Sims, which robbed them of a try. Then Corey Norman dropped the ball in front of the posts before Ben Hunt delivered an attacking kick that simply rolled into the legs of his opposition.
It is an area coach Paul McGregor will want improvement from.
All the spark and energy in attack from the Knights revolved around Ponga and Pearce.
The reliance on the duo was noticeable due to fullback Connor Watson's limited input from the back.
Watson is a noted ball runner - as opposed to a ball player and his bump, skip, step and run may not be enough for coach Nathan Brown to stick with over 25 rounds of NRL.
The recruitment of Korbin Sims from Brisbane could have a devastating impact for the Dragons if the trial is any indication.
Sims was the most dominant forward on the field in the first half.
Bending the line with every carry, Sims also showed skill with his ability to offload.
Fellow front-rower Paul Vaughan was equally effective in his 27-minute effort, repeatedly rolling through the Knights' middle, and was rewarded with a crash-over try under the posts.