TWL RD 1 WRAP: WARRIORS STRANDED IN KNIGHTMARE

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If only the New Zealand Government’s strict new travel regulations – announced on Saturday afternoon as the Warriors were bumbling their way through the Newcastle wet – were the most disturbing development of the day for the club.

Uncertainty is swirling around the Warriors’ immediate future, with the strong likelihood emerging of the team having to remain in Australia indefinitely to play their upcoming fixtures.

Meanwhile, an insipid 20-0 shutout at the hands the Knights did everything possible to justify the torrent of wooden spoon predictions levelled at the Warriors. Somewhat mercifully, the NZ border restrictions have all but overshadowed the substandard performance.

With pessimism among the Warriors’ fanbase at an unprecedented high, this performance could not have been less timely.

An eye-watering 13-10 penalty count against the Warriors told a decent chunk of the story, but their aimless attack, and glaring lack of size, physicality and punch screamed bottom-four finish.

Clutching for a positive, the scoreline did not blow out despite the Knights’ dominance, while bench debutant Eliesa Katoa looked at home in the NRL and Patrick Herbert was a constant ball of energy and effort on the wing.

The Warriors’ ball-control early was good, but a string of penalties invited the Knights down to their end to open the scoring with a 10th-minute try.

Over-eager Wayde Egan left a hole open for Daniel Saifiti, who powered through the tackle of Adam Blair to reach out for 6-0.

Discipline prevented the Warriors from getting any sort of momentum, giving away a penalty in four of the Knights’ ensuing six sets.

The last of those allowed the hosts an opportunity to go 10-0 up, a deflected kick fumbled by Lachlan Burr before Knights five-eighth Kurt Mann fired the ball out for a simple Edrick Lee try.

Yet another penalty soon after the restart – the eighth of the match against the Warriors – resulted in 10 minutes in the bin for Chanel Harris-Tavita, capping a nightmare opening quarter with a very stiff breeze at their back.

FoxSports commentator and perennial Warriors-bagger Braith Anasta could barely keep it in his pants.

But the under-siege visitors survived the one-man disadvantage without further damage to the scoreboard and produced their most meaningful attacking foray of the game to that point after Blake Green drilled a 40/20.

A second-tackle error 30 metres out from the Knights’ line inside the last two minutes of the half summed up the Warriors’ offensive efforts, however.

An uncharacteristic dropped ball from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and subsequent penalty against the Warriors saw the Knights push out to 12-0 almost immediately after the resumption.

More penalties, another stern warning from patronising ref Henry Perenara, and a second penalty goal for Kalyn Ponga before the 50-minute mark. The Knights were rumbling through the smaller, fatigued Warriors in the middle of the park and manhandling them in defence.

Ponga snapped the 40-minute try drought after superb lead-up work from Mann and a deft grubber from Mitchell Pearce.

The match petered out with the Knights unable to add to the misery on the scoreboard, but the embattled Warriors bungled their late chances to get off the donut – including Tuivasa-Sheck inexplicably ignoring a three-man overlap and getting cut down by Lee a metre out from the line.

But the chaotic circumstances around what’s to come for the Warriors will consume us for now, rather than their thoroughly disappointing first 80-minute effort of what is quickly becoming the most extraordinary season in premiership history.

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