An inconsolable Tautau Moga will miss the rest of the season and faces a fourth knee reconstruction with his career now under a cloud as the Newcastle Knights crashed to St George Illawarra in Wollongong on Sunday.
Moga’s ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury further soured a dismal day for the Knights, whose error-riddled 80 minutes and inability to match the Dragons powerful forward pack were major contributors in a 30-12 defeat.
Moments before crossing for the opening try of the game after just four minutes, Moga stepped off his left foot to beat Dragons fullback Matt Dufty and his knee gave way.
While he still managed to ground the ball for the try, he was assisted from the field minutes later with his season now in tatters.
One of the club’s big off-season recruits from the Brisbane Broncos, Moga faces another major knee operation and six months of rehabilitation, a scenario all too familiar for the big centre.
He has already had three reconstructions on his right knee and while this is his left knee, his recovery will be as much a mental battle as it is a physical one.
“He’s inconsolable right now and everyone in the club is feeling for him, his partner, his little one and their family,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said.
Skipper Mitchell Pearce said the playing group was “shattered”.
“We were only talking last night how good it’s been that he’s come back from what he has been through,”Pearce said.
“We are shattered for him. He has worked so hard in the pre-season and was starting to find some real form.”
With Moga gone, Brown was forced to use utility Jamie Buhrer as a make-shift centre and faces a real selection headache moving forward with the Knights decidedly skinny in the outside backs department.
But there were no excuses for the errors that continually kept the side on the back foot in this game.
After leading 6-0, they gave up three straight tries, two off them off the back of mistakes, to trail 18-6 before Pearce conjured up a try for prop Chris Heighington with an inside ball that opened up the Dragons defence close to their line.
They trailed 20-12 at the break but a further two tries to the Dragons in the space of five minutes before the mid-way point of the second half put the game to bed.
After starting their campaign with two encouraging wins, reality has now set in for the Knights.
This was their second straight heavy defeat after the 38-8 loss the the Sydney Roosters in round three with Brown admitting the more powerful clubs in the competition are no longer taking his side lightly.
“After our first two weeks, the good sides are coming to play us,”he said.
“They are not coming thinking if they go three-quarter pace or at 80 percent, they can beat us any more. That was the case last season and a lot of the players who have been with us for two or three years have now got to raise the water level.
“When the Dragons raised the pace of the game today and Jack de Belin raised the pace with his defence, we struggled to go with them.”
Fullback Kalyn Ponga was outstanding in a beaten side while Pearce did all he could despite being under immense pressure throughout.