Covid-19 or not, the Warriors had a job to do at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The vast majority failed to aim up.
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c): Looking virtually the only Warriors player likely to break the Knights open, but not a happy day at the office by the skipper’s standards. Couple of errors and bombed a certain try late in the piece. Nevertheless, brave effort to front up after being all but scratched with a foot injury and still topped his team with 152 running metres and 42 post-contact metres. 6
2 PATRICK HERBERT: A genuine positive in his first NRL game on the wing. Racked up 116 metres on 14 – including several very tough – carries of the footy, as well as racking up an equal-team-high tackle-breaks. Heavily targeted but handled most that came his way. 7
Every time Patrick Herbert touches the ball for the nz warriors – a dragons angel does – shame he didn’t end up at a good club
— Corona Free since 93 (@Janis_Matteus) March 14, 2020
3 DAVID FUSITU’A: Good early signs at centre with some powerful runs that sent Knights defenders skittling, but largely struggled to find his groove. TWL is still behind the switch. 5.5
4 PETA HIKU: The Knights pinpointed Hiku and he had a tough afternoon opposite comparative greenhorn Gehamat Shibasaki, making 17 tackles but missing five. Had a couple of nice touches late but 71 metres for a player that regularly posted over 100 last year, on top of a couple of errors, was not ideal. 5
5 KEN MAUMALO: Didn’t do a lot wrong, but with the Warriors under the pump from go to whoa Big Ken’s return of 15 runs for 115 metres was a couple of notches below what we’ve come to expect. Few chances on attack. 5
6 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA: Tried his guts out – particularly on defence, where he came up with 21 tackles and just one miss – but was the unlucky Warriors to get sin-binned and almost everything the gutsy youngster tried with the ball failed to come off, including a succession of deflected kicks. A tough lesson but one CHT has the temperament to grow from. 5
Chanel Harris-Tavita is sent to the sin bin for repeat infringements.
— FOX LEAGUE (@FOXNRL) March 14, 2020
7 BLAKE GREEN: Like Chanel, his effort couldn’t be faulted – but Green’s execution was severely lacking, besides nailing a 40/20 in the first half. Offensive kryptonite on the right edge. 5
8 LEESON AH MAU: It’s hard to criticise Leeson, but only eight carries for 68 metres from the player widely regarded as the Warriors’ No.1 prop gives an indication as to why the club is in its current engine-room mess. 5
9 WAYDE EGAN: Like most NRL hookers, Egan was a defensive workhorse on club debut with 37 stops. But he recorded just two running metres – simply not good enough for the dummy-half of a team that desperately needs spark from its little men. If that’s the benchmark, there’s no way keeping the ex-Panther in the No.9 ahead of Nikorima or Lawton. Even reluctant hooker Jazz Tevaga offers more in the position. 4
10 LACHLAN BURR: Not a prop. Probably not a first-grader at many other clubs. But dug in for a team-high 41 tackles and eight runs in a typically wholehearted showing. Creamed by Knights back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon early on. 5
11 ADAM BLAIR: Gave away his customary couple of penalties and missed a tackle of Daniel Saifiti as the Knights opened the scoring, but was the only member of the starting pack to top 100 metres and racked up 31 tackles. Far from the worst out there, but still absolutely coppppped it on Twitter. 6.5
Adam Blair most overrated player ever @NZWarriors
— Gregor Uhlmann (@UhlmannGregor) March 14, 2020
12 TOHU HARRIS: Good to have him back out there and looked to ignite the right-side attack during the first half. Finished with 92 metres and reeled off 36 tackles. Not amazing, but solid 80-minute comeback. 6
13 ISAIAH PAPALI’I: Put up good numbers – 10 runs for 98 metres, and 33 tackles with one miss – but offers a fraction of the dynamic impact the vast majority of No.13s in the NRL provide their teams. Still better than when he was on the edge. 5.5
14 KODI NIKORIMA: The Warriors looked far better for having his speed and willingness to run the ball at dummy-half – despite Stephen Kearney waiting way too long to bring him on. Four runs and 10 tackles during 28 minutes on the paddock and roved in attack well. 6
"I'll play wherever"
— Michael Burgess (@mikeburgess99) March 14, 2020
15 JAMAYNE TAUNOA-BROWN: The most impressive Warriors front-rower in his first-grade debut. Eight runs for 80 metres and looked hard to handle, while he replicated a remarkable defensive appetite with 29 tackles in 42 minutes of game-time. A handling error just before halftime with the Warriors on attack was unfortunate. 6.5
16 ELIESA KATOA: The undisputed silver lining on a bleak day in Newcastle for the Warriors. The strapping 20-year-old – who didn’t even know the rules to rugby league this time last year – lapped his fellow forwards on NRL debut with 17 runs for 146 metres (39 post-contact) and consistently proved a handful for the Knights’ defence, as well as popping a team-high two offloads. Has to be there in a full-strength 17…this kid has got it. Cute post-match interview. 8
242 – Eliesa Katoa becomes @NZWarriors heritage player #242.
He becomes the first born #Warrior from the 2000’s decade.
— NZ Warriors Stats (@NZWarriorsStats) March 14, 2020
18 KING VUNIYAYAWA: Handed a late debut at Karl Lawton’s expense, making four strong runs and 18 tackles in 21 minutes on the paddock. Nice to see the 25-year-old clubman rewarded with a maiden call-up. 5