‘He needs to learn that it’s a tough game’: Flanno fires up at Sloan as Hastings bounces back in Newcastle deluge


Newcastle have taken the two points over St George Illawarra at McDonald Jones Stadium, edging the Dragons 30-10 on a night when the weather was the true winner.

It was as wet and windy as it gets in Newcastle, with puddles forming before the start and the rain only growing harder as the game went on.

Ben Hunt slashed a dropout from the puddle beneath the posts straight to Kalyn Ponga on the 20m line, who caught it then slipped over. It was going to be that kind of night.

Despite the horrendous conditions, there was space for one of the moments of the season as Zac Lomax, centre of attention all week, threw the pass of the year for a Hunt try and for a clear message to be sent by Jackson Hastings, who returned to first grade with a try and a strong performance in the halves.

Shane Flanagan switched Lomax to fullback at half time, insisting after the match that it was done as a message to Tyrell Sloan, whom he thought was below par.

“It wasn’t good enough,” he said of Sloan.

“He’s young kid and he needs to learn that it’s a tough game, you need to put your head where people are going to put their boots, and there’s going to be collision.

“It didn’t happen in the first three tries so I needed to make a change. I’m not afraid to do those type of things. I need to make change at this club, that’s my job.”

It was always going to be a question of who played the conditions better and, while there was a 50kmph wind in the Knights’ faces, it was they who made the most of it in the first half and, come the second, they were far enough ahead to hold on.

Adam O’Brien can get some good footy out of his side, but tonight wasn’t the night for it. Instead, they fought hard, ran straight and finished their sets.

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The Dragons struggled to do the same, with a raft of errors on a night when, really, they might have needed an actual raft.

Shane Flanagan has endured a turbulent week with speculation over Lomax’s future, but insisted that his winger would give his all for the side despite agreeing to leave at the end of the year.

Lomax went beyond that, keeping up his own tryscoring streak for the Dragons’ first and producing the assist for for their second, a pass so good that even the near 10,000 Novocastrians who braved the rain applauded.

The black spot for Flanagan will be over the fitness of Jack Bird, who went down under a hefty challenge from Hastings and departed before the end.


Zac Lomax. Simply Extroadinary ????

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Newcastle’s two halves see them through

It would be churlish to suggest that O’Brien had one eye on the weather forecast when he picked his team on Tuesday, but his decision to go with Hastings ahead of Tyson Gamble to partner Jack Cogger proved a masterstroke.

“It filled me with confidence when I pulled the curtains this morning and looked at the weather,” said the coach.

“I thought we had two halves that will manage the end of sets well, they’ll kick well and then this guy (Ponga) does his thing.

“Going into that wind was fairly significant and we got the tries the way you needed to get the tries, turning the ball under and chasing kicks.”

Newcastle essentially had two halfbacks and no five eighth, which gave twice as many last tackle options, with both halves exceptional in short kicking.

The Knights played the conditions, sticking the ball up the jumpers to charge up the middle, get to the end of the set and then drop the ball in the in-goal and hope for chaos to happen.

On a night when the chaotic was always likely, the plan worked to perfection.

Hastings made hay early, marking his return to the team by opening the scoring, inevitably by pouncing on a kick that several Dragons spilled in the wet.

Hastings powers through and the Knights strike first ????

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He celebrated with a clear fingers-in-ears gesture aimed at his doubters following Adam O’Brien’s decision to leave the halfback out.

Jacob Saifiti also touched down a kick that stopped dead in the standing water being the Dragons line, turning around what had been a solid start from St George Illawarra, and Dylan Lucas crashed through after that to add to the lead.

Ponga did have a few nice moments in shape but, really, this was all about the big men running hard and the halves kicking low to either force repeat sets or, as was the case several times, simply score themselves.

Zac Lomax shows the Dragons what they’ll miss

Lomax was at the heart of discussions all week and had two major moments in the first half before a key tactical change in the second.

He scored the first from a Hunt kick and then returned the favour with one of the passes of the season, pelting the ball backwards as he was forced over the touchline to find his halfback.

It was a timely reminder of his ceiling, and what another club will pick up when he leaves at the end of this year.

That was compounded by a shaky showing from Tyrell Sloan, who spilled on what was, admittedly, about as hard a night as it gets for fullbacks.

Ponga slip and slides his way to a try ????

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Flanagan swapped Sloan and Lomax in the second half, moving the bigger man to the back to start sets in the wet, perhaps aware that Sloan’s subtly and skill were never going to be to the fore on a night like this.

If Bird’s injury turns out to be bad, it will be interesting to see what Flanno does with Lomax.

Though he has been good on the wing and has deputised at the back, it’s clear that his preference is to play centre and a slot may well have just opened up.

It would be highly ironic if the man who wanted to leave due to being forced out onto the wing would finally get his chance to go back into the centres, just a week after agreeing to leave.

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