NRL: New Zealand Warriors sink further into another terrible loss to Newcastle Knights
Newcastle Knights beat Warriors 24-16 at Moreton Daily Stadium. Video / Sky Sport
It’s hard to know where the Warriors go from here – but the signs aren’t good.
Desperate for a win to jump-start their season, they instead blew a 12-0 lead to lose 24-16 to Newcastle Knights on Saturday.
The gravity of this loss cannot be underestimated.
The Knights had had a miserable run, with just one win since the second round, but edged out the Warriors where it mattered, showing a little more hunger and poise when it was really needed.
It’s the Warriors’ fourth straight loss, on a run that saw just one win in seven matches and ended a positive streak at their home of Redcliffe.
This will add to the pressure on the club, after Matt Lodge’s bizarre exit and payment.
They were unlucky with Marcelo Montoya’s second-half sin – which was a strange call – but that wasn’t the difference.
The crucial period came in the second quarter. The Warriors were flying 12-0, before an all-too-familiar fade as they completely lost their pack.
They were killed by a series of unforced errors – to let the Knights back into the game – and Newcastle took the initiative from there.
The Warriors coped admirably with the absence of the Addin Fonua-Blake and Lodge twin towers but were shaky defensively, while the axis of play rarely clicked.
New signing Dunamis Lui was a late inclusion, with the 169-game NRL veteran entering the swap bench at the expense of Eliesa Katoa.
Against a wobbly Knights side, the Warriors got off to a great start, with two tries in the opening eight minutes.
Adam Pompey drove through a porous defense to score wide – after a break from Freddy Lussick – before fellow center Viliami Vailea completed a quick coast-to-coast move minutes later.
Newcastle, who had missed 50 tackles the previous week, looked distraught. It was a brilliant platform for the Warriors, but instead they resurrected the visitors, with a series of mistakes.
Shaun Johnson and Chanel Harris-Tavita were both sent off, as they called on the Knights to press almost out of nowhere. There was impressive defence, with Jazz Tevaga clipping Tyson Frizell to save a certain try but the game had changed.
Frizell pounced on a Jake Clifford grubber in the 24th minute, before Walsh sent the ensuing kickoff over the dead ball line, the kind of mistake that becomes a semi-regular occurrence .
This eventually led to Edrick Lee’s try, with the Warriors right edge dazzled and out of shape.
Out of nowhere, the Knights had a certain confidence and conviction, although both teams continued to suffer from unnecessary mistakes, with impatience and a lack of decisiveness on offense.
The Warriors briefly regained the lead in the 51st minute, after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak collected a pinpoint kick from Johnson in the corner, following a brilliant late offload from Euan Aitken.
The cheer lasted less than 90 seconds as the Knights responded almost immediately, after Harris-Tavita split the cold kickoff.
Aside from the error – which was a howl – it was another example of the Warriors’ inability to respond to adversity, as a poor defensive read of a scrum move allowed Enari Tuala to cross without To be touched.
The Warriors were then reduced to 12 men, with Montoya harshly condemned, for a high shot on a falling Lee.
The home side defended hard for most of the period shorthanded, but Tuala scored his second – arriving first on a grubber from Anthony Milford – just before Montoya returned.
The Warriors had 10 minutes to find a miracle but never really looked likely, although Vailea was held over the line in the final minute.
Knights 24 (Enari Tuala 2, Tyson Frizell, Edrick Lee tries; Jake Clifford 4 blocks)
Warriors 16 (Adam Pompey, Viliami Vailea, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak try; Reece Walsh jerk, pen)
excl. tax: 12-12