St George Illawarra blew out the cobwebs with an impressive 38-12 victory over Newcastle in their opening NRL pre-season trial on Saturday night.
The Dragons ran in seven tries to two in front of a strong crowd for a trial at Maitland Sportsground in the Hunter Valley to continue their impressive pre-season form.
Despite missing captain Cameron McInnes, Korbin Sims and Matt Dufty (injury), Issac Luke and Josh Kerr (NRL All-Stars) and James Graham and Trent Merrin (rested), St George Illawarra looked a class above Newcastle throughout.
The sides went to half-time level at 6-all before both coaches made a host of changes for the second half which disrupted the flow of the contest.
Having reached the final of the NRL Nines tournament in Perth last weekend, the Dragons will no doubt take even more confidence from their strong display against the Knights.
Coach Paul McGregor named a strong team for the first half which included first choice stars Corey Norman and Ben Hunt in the halves, Euan Aitken and Tim Lafai in the centres, forwards Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims and Zac Lomax at fullback.
New Knights coach Adam O'Brien also rolled out his stars including Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer and new recruit Jayden Brailey at hooker.
A scoreless opening quarter suffered from the typical lack of polish and cohesion of a pre-season trial, with handling and timing errors aplenty.
But Newcastle hit the lead less than two minutes into the second quarter when substitute hooker Chris Randall burrowed over from close range after a classy Daniel Saifiti offload.
The Dragons hit back four minutes before half-time with a shift to the right through Hunt and Lomax which saw Mikaele Ravalawa burst down the right touchline and score in the corner.
With two vastly different teams in terms of personnel rolled out for the second half St George Illawarra were able to gain the upper hand, scoring three tries inside 10 minutes.
The Dragons blew the Knights away with winger Jordan Pereira scoring two of his four tries in the left corner before new signing Brayden Wiliame crossed after Lomax fielded a Tristan Sailor bomb.
Pereira had his hat-trick shortly after from a brilliant Adam Clune cut-out pass as the Dragons scored 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to lead 28-6.
The Knights hit back with a consolation try to Luke Huth before Pereira added his fourth.
Clune then ended the scoring with two minutes to play, finishing off a long Wiliame break from inside his own half.
The Dragons will look to finish their strong pre-season on a high when they travel to Mudgee to take on South Sydney in their traditional Charity Shield clash next Saturday night.
Meanwhile, a young Cronulla side went down 30-18 to Canterbury in an historic NRL trial match in Papua New Guinea.
Will Kennedy, Sione Katoa and Braydon Trindall scored first half tries to give the Sharks a 14-12 lead at the break before Connor Tracey extended the advantage with a four-pointer shortly after the resumption.
But the Bulldogs hit back shortly after before hitting the front with three late tries in the dying stages.
In front of an enthusiastic crowd at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby, the only real bleak spot for the Sharks was the knee injury suffered by new signing Cameron King.
King, regarded as one of the unluckiest players in the NRL, has previously battled serious shoulder, pectoral and knee injuries.
The hooker had jumped out of dummy half in the second half and went to step off his right foot, only to collapse to the ground while grabbing at his knee. King was then assisted from the field.
Cronulla will finish their pre-season with a trial against Manly at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium next Sunday night.