Newcastle Knights win back to back matches who would have thought? Stephen Kearney’s Warriors outfit were once again uninspiring as they fell to their 5th loss in a row. Although Newcastle will be keen to test themselves in their final four games of the year they’ll be looking towards next year with great anticipation with the improvement of their young players coupled with Nathan Brown’s impressive recruitment drive Knights fans will be have high hopes for 2018. New Zealand can’t wait for this season to end as they reflect on yet another wasted season.
Knights getting closer to 80 minute performance
For the first 20 rounds this season Newcastle have impressed everyone with the quality of their first half performances leading a number of matches at the break.
The second half of matches has been their issue especially the 10 minute period after halftime being where they have conceded a number of points and seen their hard work from the first half evaporate. But for the last two weeks Newcastle have been able to back up their good starts with solid second halves which has produced two wins, apart from Ken Sio’s drop off the kickoff Newcastle were almost perfect in the first 10 minutes and bulldozing Lock Mitch Barnett’s double had given the home side a 12-0 lead after as many minutes.
Although Nathan Brown would have been delighted with his sides 16-4 lead at halftime he would have taken more satisfaction in how his young side handled the second half, Newcastle seemed in control for the majority of the second 40 minutes and seemed comfortable in repelling anything the Warriors threw at them.
New Zealand came out firing in the second half but Newcastle defended their line and turned Kearney’s men away before scoring a try of their own through Lachlan Fitzgibbon, although the Warriors responded later in the match to send some nervous shivers through McDonald Jones Stadium Newcastle never panicked and cruised home for their best overall performance for the season.
Knights win two in a row
For the first time since late 2015 Newcastle Knights have won back to back matches and for many of their young players it was their first ever taste of consecutive wins at NRL level.
Only three players who played in the wins against the Tigers and Storm in 2015 are still at the club – Sione Mata’utia, Dane Gagai and Nathan Ross which shows what a dramatic overall the club has undertaken.
Since those Round 23 and 24 victories Newcastle has only won 5 games so it’s no surprise back to back victories have eluded them but if the side continues to grow and improvement I’m sure they won’t have to wait another 700 days to taste back to back wins.
Once were Warriors
Warriors fans can be forgiven for feeling pretty down when it comes to their side this season or for the past six seasons in fact. Since they played in the 2011 Grand Final they have failed to make the finals every year since and their seasons have all seemed to follow a similar trend of starting slow, building up steam through the origin period before meekly succumbing in their final push towards the finals.
Coaches and players have come and gone but nothing seems to change as New Zealand continue to be the most disappointing side in the competition, on paper yesterdays game was a total mismatch a side contain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kerian Foran, Isaac Luke and numerous Kiwi International players should have been able to overcome a Knights side featuring just the one representative player.
Stephen Kearney’s men never troubled Newcastle barely putting up a fight. Coach Kearney talked about the “effort” of some individuals but I feel it’s Kearney who needs to look at himself and some of his tactics this season.
The Warriors are near the top of possession stats this season when it comes to errors and completions they rank third best which if you ask any coach will usually translate to a similar position on the ladder.
So why hasn’t this worked for New Zealand?
History shows the successful Warriors teams of the past have always been unpredictable and have found success through second phase play, the Warriors this season rank 14th in offloads this season which shows Kearney has taken this out of their game.
It’s in their DNA as players and a club to throw the ball around and challenge their opposition physically not too complete sets and play boring football the players seem to lack energy but maybe it’s their game plan that lacks energy.
Brock’s Big Day
Brock Lamb backed up last week’s MOTM performance with another career best in his sides win, Lamb laid on tries for Mitch Barnett and Lachlan Fitzgibbon before icing the match with a try of his own following some nice lead up play by his team mates.
Nathan Brown will be delighted with how Lamb has responded to a challenging few weeks for the young pivot, after being dropped for the Tigers match he endured a rough return against the Bulldogs where a few key errors by Brock played a big role in the Knights losing that match.
Since then Newcastle signed Connor Watson to play in Lamb’s 6 jersey for next season so you could understand if the 20 year old was low on confidence but in the last two weeks he’s shown why Brown has such a high opinion of him.
Two Try assists, three line break assists, one try and importantly no missed tackles showed on paper that Lamb had a nice day out but his calmness on last play options and presence around the ball can’t be shown in numbers but Nathan Brown will have taken notice.
Newcastle Knights 26 (Barnett 2, Fitzgibbon, Lamb tries; Hodkinson 5 goals) def. Warriors 10 (Fusitua, Roache tries; Luke 1 goal) at McDonald Jones Stadium.