Rollercoaster: “move, change, or occur in a dramatically changeable manner. Something characterised by wild and unpredictable changes.”
It can be a tough ride being a Warriors fan: the highs are incredibly high, the lows are extremely low. Saturday’s game against the Knights was no different, in what was the epitome of a game of two halves.
– 41 – This was the 41st meeting between these two sides since the Warriors entered the competition in 1995.
A dreadful first-half performance, followed up by one of their best attacking 40-minute efforts of the season, intertwined with some of the most inept refereeing decisions in recent history – this game had it all. But not exclusively for the right reasons.
The Warriors edged the hosts 24-20 in a heart-stopper.
- 8 – This was only the Warriors eighth victory in their 18 games in Newcastle since 1995.
- 21 – The Warriors are slightly ahead in the overall ledger with 21 wins to the Knights 19, with one drawn game.
- 72% – The Warriors have won 72% of the last 25 games between these two sides, winning 18 times.
A season-low Newcastle home crowd turned up to watch their under-strength side take on an underperforming Warriors side.
- 12,740 – Is the lowest turnout at McDonald Jones Stadium this season. The average crowd attendance prior to this was 21,725 per game so far this season.
The Knights were without seven first-string players due to a combination of State of Origin duty and injuries. Besides Issac Luke replacing the luckless Nate Roache and Lachlan Burr returning at Leivaha Pulu, the only change for the Warriors was centre Gerard Beale coming in as a late replacement for the injured Patrick Herbert. Tohu Harris (foot injury) aside, the Warriors were virtually at full strength.
After trading penalties in a woeful opening quarter with both sides guilty of multiple handling errors, it was the patched-up Knights who came up with the first try through stand-in centre Sione Mata’utia, breezing through from a Lachlan Fitzgibbon offload.
- 6 – Sione Mata’utia has scored six tries in nine games against the Warriors, the most he has scored against another NRL club. He would add another in the second half.
And just on the stroke of halftime it was that man Fitzgibbon again, scoring the easiest try of his life after Warriors winger David Fusitu’a made an absolute meal of a Kurt Mann grubber to the in-goal.
- 20 – Lachlan Fitzgibbon has now scored 20 tries in the past 24 months, a brilliant strike-rate for a back-rower.
The Warriors had the majority of possession, yet were still behind on the scoreboard and not even looking close to mounting a comeback. You wouldn’t think their season was on the line.
- 18 – The Knights made 18 first half tackle-breaks compared to the Warriors lacklustre five.
- 6 – This was only the sixth occasion that the Warriors have been behind at halftime this season.
- 2 – This was the second time they have come back to win the game from behind at halftime.
Fans throughout the country no doubt venting their anger at what they had just witnessed in the first 40 minutes. Easily their worst performance of the season.
- 3 – This was the 3rd occasion this season that the Warriors had failed to score a try in the first half.
One can only assume that coach Stephen Kearney didn’t mince his words at halftime; anything short of a Craig Bellamy-esque spray would not have sufficed.
The message obviously got through to the players, and the classic ‘game of two halves’ cliche seemed to be well in motion.
Off the back of three successive penalties by the Knights, centre Peta Hiku went through after Blake Green’s wrap-around with Adam Blair in the 43rd minute.
- 6 – Peta Hiku scored his sixth try this season for the Warriors, moving him clear into second place for the most tries this season for the club.
- 52 – The conversion from Issac Luke was his 52nd goal for the Warriors, moving him into 10th place on the all-time list of most goals kicked by a Warriors player. He moved past former playmaker, John Simon.
The comeback already looked on as the competition’s form winger, Ken Maumalo, scored only four minutes later after quick hands from Hiku to level the scores up. Game on.
- 11 – This was the 11th try of the season for Ken Maumalo, moving him into second equal for the most tries in the NRL this season, level with Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell, and just one try behind Parramatta rookie Maika Sivo who has scored 12.
The Warriors, a barely recognisable version of their first-half selves were in again eight minutes later, Ken Maumalo again the recipient of quick hands through the backline, acrobatically touching down for his second try in 10 minutes.
- 12 – And with his second try, Ken Maumalo moved level with NRL leader Maika Sivo on 12 tries for the season.
- 3 – Maumalo scored his first career double the last time these two sides met. He has since scored another, against the Titans. And he now has his third.
With Issac Luke nailing his conversion from the sideline the Warriors were suddenly ahead for the first time in the game.
Maumalo (and the rest of New Zealand) thought he was in again for his hat-trick 10 minutes later, only for the bunker to controversially deem he had lost control of the ball. Video replays clearly showed otherwise.
Not to be outdone, the Knights counter-attacked and threw everything at the Warriors’ defence. Sione Mata’utia picking up his second try in the 69th minute to set up a tense final 10 minutes.
- 2 – This was Sione Mata’utia’s second career double (or more) against the Warriors. He previously scored three tries in just his fourth career game as an 18-year-old winger in 2014.
With just five minutes left on the clock, bruising Warriors bench prop Sam Lisone collected a Blake Green grubber – after it rebounded off Knights fullback Connor Watson – and crashed over next to the uprights to give the Warriors the lead back.
- 3 – This was Lisone’s third try of his NRL career – and his first against a team not called the Rabbitohs. Lisone previously scored one try in both 2018 and 2019 against Souths.
Try as they might, the Knights just couldn’t crack the Warriors in the nerve-wracking final minutes. The visitors somehow managed to come away with a vital, potentially season-defining, two competition points to keep their season alive.