TWL RD 22 WRAP: WARRIORS CRUISE PAST KNIGHTS TO EDGE UP LADDER

The Warriors all but sealed the end of their seven-year finals hiatus by cruising to a 20-4 win over Newcastle on Friday night, snapping a four-game Mount Smart losing run.

After a slow, sloppy start the Warriors finished the first half well on top and 12-4 in front. The outclassed, outmuscled Knights looked ripe for a thrashing as the game opened up after the break but the Warriors try avalanche never came.

However, after enduring a couple of difficult second halves lately, an 8-0 shutout was a satisfactory result. And after the petrol they used up in Wollongong six days earlier, the lack of precision was perhaps understandable.

The result was underpinned by a dominant display by the Warriors’ back-three – in particular another stellar showing from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – and the forwards’ ability to eventually take control of the ruck.

Blake Green and Shaun Johnson came up with enough good moments in patchy overall performances to rack up some points, while Issac Luke was a livewire in his 250th NRL appearance. The result also made it back-to-back wins for just the second time since Round 5.

The Warriors compounded what is becoming a routine non-called forward pass with abysmal defence to allow the abominable Ken Sio to power through for the opening try after 12 minutes.

But seriously, the pass from Mitchell Pearce…

Meanwhile, errors plagued the home side’s progress in the opening half-hour and negated the outstanding platform their fullback and wingers were laying. Kicking execution was lacking, too, with Green and Johnson both finding the dead-ball line and both booting it into the leg of a Knight.

The Knights – who have conceded more points than any team in the NRL – deserved credit for some stiff early defence.

Finally it clicked in the 30th minute, with some hectic adlib play from Tuivasa-Sheck, Johnson and Gerard Beale setting up Adam Blair for his first try as a Warrior. The 6-4 lead felt somewhat undeserved.

It proved a real nerve-settler, though.

The Warriors marched downfield, Johnson’s cut-out pass gave David Fusitu’a some space and the big winger broke a five-match tryscoring drought by bumping off Kalyn Ponga and slamming the ball down – his 11th touchdown in just six games against the Knights.

Johnson buried the conversion from the sideline for an eight-point buffer to take into the break.

After duffing a few chances early in the second half, the Warriors went to 18-4 in the 51st minute with an unlikely solo try.

Green, tortoise-like as far as the Warriors’ spine goes, showed uncustomary zip and a big fend to blitz the Knights in a 20-metre run to the try-line. Nice work from Jazz Tevaga and Issac Luke created the opportunity.

The Warriors were let off the hook a few minutes later when Aidan Guerra butchered a try from a brilliant Pearce grubber.

The floodgates seemed certain to open but the Warriors’ pushed passes and game Knights defence frustrated a blowout in the hosts’ favour.

A curious decision to take a gift two points with three minutes left at least edged the Warriors into a positive points differential, but in a way it summed up their inability to put their foot on the Knights’ throat in a game they probably should have won by 30.

But focusing on the positives it was a comfortable, semi-convincing win, two very important competition points and a couple of annoying streaks broken.

And nice touches post-game as the Warriors paid tribute to retirees Chris Heighington and Matt Cecchin.

The Warriors have leapfrogged Brisbane, while a Cronulla loss to Melbourne would be good enough to finish the weekend clear in sixth – and possibly with a share of fourth if Gold Coast and Parramatta can do them a solid with upsets of Penrith and St George Illawarra respectively.

It was a bit dicey this time 12 days ago after the Titans debacle. Now things are looking pretty, pretty good.

Warriors 20 (Adam Blair, David Fusitu’a, Blake Green tries; Shaun Johnson 4 goals) d Newcastle Knights 4 (Ken Sio try) at Mount Smart Stadium.

 

 

 

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