Newcastle cannot find a way to stop in-form fullback Josh Dugan.
Josh Dugan has put forward a strong claim to be given the New South Wales fullback place for the second State of Origin game, after starring for St George Illawarra Dragons against Newcastle.
Dugan was a constant menace for the Knights in defence on the way to scoring two tries, including the match-winner, as his side came away with a hard-fought 14-8 victory at Hunter Stadium.
Going into the Dragons had three of their last four games, but the sensational form of Dugan almost single-handily lifted them to their fifth victory of the NRL season.
Dugan said he was not thinking about Origin in the short-term, but said if NSW coach Laurie Daley called upon him in the wake of the hamstring injury to incumbent Jarryd Hayne, he would step up.
“I think my form has shown that,” Dugan said.
“I spent 10 weeks on the sideline but I think I have had some good performances since then.
“Since I came back my focus has been on playing well for the Dragons. I will put my best foot forward if I do get picked but I’m not going to get my hopes up. I’m just going to let my football do the talking.”
Dugan was nearly kicked out of the game all together after several off-field incidents, but he was thrown a lifeline by the Dragons, something the man himself is keen to repay.
“I just want to put myself in the best position for the team and do whatever I can do. We have been working on a few plays at training and a few of the boys said ‘take it yourself’ and I did,” the former Canberra star said of his winning try with just minutes left in the game.
Minus five-eighth Jamie Soward who was dropped to the NSW Cup, both the Dragons and the Knights were unable to take their chances in a dour and try-less first half.
Joey Leilua scored the first try of the game in the 48th minute when the Knights created numbers on their right hand side to gain a handy 8-0 lead.
That was before Dugan stamped his authority on the game as he combined with Nathan Fien kick in the 56th minute to make the score to 8-6.
Dugan then landed a penalty goal in the 73rd minute to tie the scores up at 8-all, before scampering his way over from close range from a scrum in the 77th minute after James McManus had knocked on close to the line.
Beau Scott returned from injury for the Knights but he could find himself on the sidelines again after being put on report for a ‘crusher’ tackle on Dugan.
Newcastle will look to stay in the top eight next weekend when they travel to take on the Melbourne Storm, while the Dragons will be out to earn back-to-back wins when they clash with North Queensland.