Questions loom over the Warriors season as they were embarrassed at home by a dominant Knights side 36-18.
Both sides came into round 8 confident, the Knights broke their five-game losing streak with an impressive showing against the Eels, and the Storm narrowly defeated the Warriors in what was an improved performance by the New Zealand team.
The home side welcomed the return of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Green in a match that the crowd at Mount Smart Stadium expected to be a close encounter, but ultimately the Warriors were outplayed and outmuscled suffering their fourth straight defeat.
The Knights had the upper hand early on, taking advantage of the Warriors poor disciplined with a Kalyn Ponga penalty goal. The Knights weren’t finished as they surged up the field on their next set with Mitchell Pearce taking the line on himself and scoring the first try of the match, Ponga’s conversion saw the Knights pull ahead 8-0.
Minutes later the Warriors showed some signs of life when Patrick Herbert crossed for the first NRL try of his career, Chanel Harris-Tavita’s conversion saw the Warriors close the margin to 8-6. The Knights appeared to have the upper hand in the forwards, continually marching into the Warriors red zone with ease, Shaun Kenny-Dowall was next to cross the try line snatching a high kick right out of Ken Maumalo’s hands, Ponga’s conversion saw the Knights pull further ahead 14-6.
The Warriors lacked cohesion and made poor last tackle decisions leading to many missed opportunities, the team’s frustration was apparent which lead to another penalty which Ponga slotted, pushing the Knights lead out to 16-6. The Warriors had the last laugh in the first half when Maumalo scored after Peta Hiku tapped back Green’s crossfield kick, Harris-Tavita’s conversion had the Warriors only four points behind with the Knights going into the half 16-12.
The second half started much like the first with the Knights taking advantage of the Warriors lack of discipline with Ponga kicking another Penalty, stretching the Knights lead to 18-12. The Warriors responded quickly with Ken Maumalo scoring his second try of the match after some crisp passing from Tohu Harris and Peta Hiku, Harris-Tavita nailed the conversion from the sideline to level the scores 18 all.
This was the last time the Warriors were competitive in this match as the Knights turned up the intensity and took advantage of the Warriors weak defense scoring three tries in a row through Sione Mata’utia, Hymel Hunt and Kalyn Ponga which blew the lead out to 36-18 in what was a impressive outing for a Newcastle side that has shown in the past fortnight that they could be a playoff contender
Knights gameplan neuters Warriors, back three
The Warriors strongest asset is their back three relying on them to start their sets strong, and the Knights completely took them out of the game, opting to kick for touch instead. This meant the Warriors started the majority of their sets from scrums and lost much-needed momentum; the Warriors will need to come up with a gameplan to combat this as you can expect many teams to emulate the Knights ploy for the remainder of the season.
Knights forwards dominate
The Knights forwards, lead by David Klemmer bullied the Warriors pack from start to finish. Klemmer’s 207 metres was the stand out performance, but the entire pack worked well as a unit to give the Knights backline the platform they needed as well as restricting the Warriors pack from making an impact on the match with a strong defensive effort. The Knights forwards need to ensure that this performance is the new standard for the remainder of the 2019 season.
The Warriors missed Bunty Afoa’s impact from the pine and will be hoping he is back from his injury in time to face the Dragons during the Magic Round in Brisbane.
Ponga’s star continues to rise
Kalyn Ponga may have said he was scared of marking Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, but he showed why he is one of the most exciting players in the NRL today. After a less than stellar start to the season, his move back to fullback has reignited Ponga’s season and in turn, has kicked the Knights season back into gear. With Ponga playing like this, the Knights are always a chance to walk away with the victory.
Where to from here for Warriors
This defeat is the fourth in a row for the Warriors and chances of a playoff spot are drifting away. The Warriors have lacked direction on attack and were hoping that Blake Greens return would solve that issue, but it didn’t, perhaps the three weeks away from the field caused some ring rust for Green, but the Warriors need to find a solution to their attacking woes if they want to turn their season around. Perhaps new signing Kodi Nikorima is the answer?
Newcastle Knights 36
Tries: Mitchell Pearce, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sione Mata’utia, Hymel Hunt, Kalyn Ponga
Goals: Kalyn Ponga 8/9
New Zealand Warriors 18
Tries: Patrick Herbert, Ken Maumalo (2)
Goals: Chanel Harris-Tavita 3/3
Newcastle Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Hymel Hunt, 14. Sione Mata’utia, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Mitchell Barnett, 13. Tim Glasby, 15. Herman Ese’ese, 16. James Gavet, 17. Josh King, 19. Kurt Mann
New Zealand Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 17. Gerard Beale, 3. Peta Hiku, 4. Patrick Herbert, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita, 7. Blake Green, 8. Agnatius Paasi, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Leeson Ah Mau, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Lachlan Burr, 14. Nathaniel Roache, 15. Adam Blair, 18. Hayze Perham, 23. Chris Satae