Newcastle Knights 28
Tries: Sione Mata’utia 3, Chanel Mata’utia, Joey Leilua
Goals: Kurt Gidley 4/7
New Zealand Warriors 22
Tries: David Fusitu’a 2, Manu Vatuvei 2, Nathan Friend
Goals: Chad Townsend 1/5
For Sione Mata’utia, he will remember Newcastle’s triumph over the reigning premiers, the Sydney Roosters, just three weeks ago, as his debut match in the NRL. But what could put him and his younger brother, Chanel, in the history books of rugby league may well be what went down on Sunday afternoon at Hunter Stadium in front of 12,000 spectators.
The New Zealand Warriors proved a threat in the early stages of the match but after Simon Mannering was put on report for a high tackle, Newcastle were given a chance inside the Warriors’ half that they both took and utilised.
In the 10th minute, winger Sione Mata’utia collected a perfectly timed chip kick over the defence from Jarrod Mullen to give the home team the winning edge over their competition.
Just 5 minutes later a knock on from Sam Tomkins gave the Knights a scrum, and it only got worse from there when a brilliant individual effort from Joey Leilua saw the Knights reach eight points.
The Knights threw everything in attack at the Warriors who managed to hold up reasonably well in defence considering their threat.
In the 25th minute, what seemed as a basic scrum turned into a crucial point for controversy when Sione Mata’utia received the ball from play and charged 80m down the field to score his second try of the day. The following controversy was sparked when New Zealand halfback Shaun Johnson appealed to the referee for a no try after he claimed to have been obstructed by the game’s very own referee. Further video evidence supported Johnson’s claims, but the try was still awarded as an obstruction from the referee did not qualify for the decision to be overturned.
The inner frustration at this call in the Warriors squad was exerted in the 30th minute when Winger Manu Vatuvei expressed his ‘modern day niggle’ when he rampaged at certain Knights players.
Whatever technique of tormenting Vatuvei used certainly worked because just three minutes later the Warriors found the ball in the grass of the Knights’ in goal through an acrobatic David Futisu’a.
Soon after, the Warriors found the same patch of grass again when Manu Vatuvei scored the second try of the day for the Warriors after a Knights fumble. The first half ended with the Knights ahead by four points with the conversion rates standing at 1/3 for Newcastle’s Kurt Gidley and 50% for New Zealand’s Chad Townsend.
In just the second minute of the second half the scores were leveled when Warriors hooker Nathan Friend barged through a gap in the mediocre Knights defence.
Once the scored were at a level, the form of play returned to the same that was seen in the first ten minutes of the game where the scored were too level. Both teams gave and were awarded penalties while tackle counts would reach a dozen within just 60 seconds. Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson continued his not-so-spectacular return from injury when a pass of his went straight into the stands in the 49th minute.
During the 52nd minute, Knights winger Sione Mata’utia once again defied all odds when he reached a hat trick from barging through Sam Tomkins and Ben Henry in defence to make an incredible put-down. Kurt Gidley managed to convert from the sideline to give the Knights 20 points.
Sam Tomkins later revived himself with a stellar snatch of the ball right on the Warriors’ tryline. Soon after, the Knights decided to take a penalty kick through Kurt Gidley just ten meters out to put the Knights two unconverted tries in front.
Fellow brother of Sione, Chanel, also created points for the Knights when in the 66th minute he put the icing on the Knights’ lead and his 22nd birthday cake with a brilliant individual effort that resulted in a try.
In the 69th minute, there was a small glimmer of hope for the Warriors when a brilliant pass from Sam Tomkins to David Fusitu’a brought the scores to an eight-point difference.
Just 6 minutes later, another superstar of the game received its hat trick. No, it wasn’t Sione Mata’utia, but it was the acrobatic put-downs we see in this game that make up the highlight reels. In the 75th minute, Manu Vatuvei scored his second try of the night when he dived over the corner post and past the Knights’s defence.
But unfortunately for the Warriors, it wasn’t enough.