The Warriors were too strong for the Newcastle Knights, with a 20-4 victory on Friday night at Mt Smart Stadium. It secured their spot inside the eight.
Both teams got through their sets in the opening period and – off the back of a mistake – the Knights found themselves in good field position. They converted this into points through a Ken Sio try in the corner; a Mitchell Pearce pass in the build was questionable but not controversial. With the Knights leading 4-0, the Warriors gained ascendancy up the middle – this was noticeable through their outside backs. Some poor execution didn’t help but they finally found the tryline when they threw the ball from side-to-side, sending Adam Blair over in the 28th minute. They added a second minutes later, when a fast-moving Knights defence failed to shut the Warriors down. David Fusitu’a brushed off the cover defence to crash over out wide. Shaun Johnson’s second conversion pushed the score to 12-4 at halftime.
The Knights came out in the second half looking tired. After 10 minutes of building strong attacking sets, Blake Green took the line on from thirty out and beat all to score near the uprights. The Knights almost got themselves back in the game, only for Aidan Guerra to fumble a Mitchell Pearce grubber. The Warriors’ offloads caused headaches for the Knights, especially with Isaac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck finding plenty of space around the ruck. A late penalty goal from Johnson gave the Warriors a 20-4 win.
HELPING OUT THE FORWARDS
The strong runs from the outside backs helped steady the ship for the Warriors part way through the first half. The strong runs up the middle from Tuivasa-Sheck and Gerard Beale added to Newcastle’s defensive workload. The Warriors were able to benefit from this effort in the second half.
KICKING TO VICTORY
It took a bit for Johnson and Green to find their kicking boots, but they showed their hand early with a few grubber kicks behind the line. This tactic was maintained throughout and added to the fatigue of the Knights forwards as they were being turned around. This was smart, finals-type footy from the Warriors who are mixing some razzle dazzle with pressuring football.
The Knights would be happy they performed a little better compared to the last few weeks. They never gave up the fight and avoided a late fade out. Next week they will be looking to improve in defence and attack.
Pearce and Luke both brought up game 250. It started as Pearce’s night as he helped lay on Newcastle’s first try. From there it all went the Warriors way and Luke’s involvement increased as the middle of the Knights’ defence tired.
New Zealand Warriors 20
Tries: Adam Blair, David Fusitu’a, Blake Green.
Goals: Shaun Johnson 4/4.
Newcastle Knights 4
Tries: Ken Sio.
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2 David Fusitu’a, 3 Gerard Beale, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Blake Green, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 James Gavet, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Agnatius Paasi, 11 Isaiah Papali’i, 12 Adam Blair, 13 Simon Mannering.
Interchange: 14 Jazz Tevaga, 15 Leivaha Pulu, 16 Bunty Afoa, 17 Peta Hiku
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Jack Cogger, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitch Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra.
Interchange: 14 Jamie Buhrer (c), 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Pasami Saulo, 17 JJ Felise