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Plenty of studs, no duds in the Warriors’ stirring Round 1 victory over the Knights in Wellington.

1 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD: Welcome home, Charnze. His Wahs return got off to a bad start with a costly bungled bomb, but did not put a foot wrong thereafter. Strong kick returns and hit-ups, frequently sniffing in support up the middle, backed up to score a great try and – perhaps most memorably – produced a stunning try-saver on Kalyn Ponga, before coming up with a superb in-goal clean-up to alleviate subsequent pressure. Tallies of 190 metres from 17 runs and 10 tackles without a miss further completed a picture of a performance RTS would have been proud of. 8

23 ED KOSI: It’s no secret my wafer-thin confidence in Big Ed was rattled by a dreadful trial showing in Christchurch, but the tyro rose to the challenge big time here. Superbly taken try, a couple of great takes under the high ball, cracked 100 metres and, best of all, a wonderful try-saver on opposite Hunt when the game was on the line. His best in the NRL to date. 7.5

3 BRAYDEN WILIAME: The journeyman fully justified a call-up few thought he’d get when he was a low-key off-season signing. Didn’t have a great deal to do in defence but no issues there, while his tough carries amounted to 150 metres on 14 runs. Capped a fine display by cutting through the Knights’ defence and sending CNK away for his try. It’s Wiliame’s spot to lose. 7.5

4 ADAM POMPEY: It was a very much a Pomp-ish performance, but one that ultimately finished on the credit side. Racked up 18 tackles (including some important ones on the goal-line late), took a couple of high balls very impressively in dangerous situations and put Kosi over. Not so good as a ball-carrier, tallying just 55 metres, and his decision to play at a Knights dropout that wasn’t going the 10 essentially cost the Warriors a gift two points on halftime. 6

5 MARCELO MONTOYA: An absolute workhorse to come out well on top in his battle with Dominic Young, charging for a game-high 204 metres on 20 runs. Some good clean-up work under pressure and remains an intensity barometer for this Warriors outfit. 7.5

6 TE MAIRE MARTIN: Played within himself, particuarly on attack, but had some very nice touches in the first half and was excellent on D, making 18 tackles. Barrelling Bradman Best into touch was a massive moment in the game. Only kicked once and it was a dud – would like to see him take more responsibility there with Johnson constantly under the pump. 6.5

7 SHAUN JOHNSON: Let’s get the negative out of the way first: ugly attempted tackle as Fitzgibbon breezed in for the first try, an erratic kicking game with some good and some pretty ordinary, and a misstep or two on attack. But for the non-death-riders there was plenty to be hopeful about. SJ was very busy popping up on both sides of the ruck, his support play got him one line-break and should have got him a try if Barnett passed, but he nevertheless summed it up on the next play to help set up Kosi’s try. Really encouraging to see him take the line on from a scrum win, just about scoring again, while some of the budding combinations he’s forming with the new lads should flourish with a bit more time. Also came up with some important plays in defence as the match wore on. 6.5

8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE: Not exactly dominant, but got the Warriors rolling during his 46 minutes on the paddock with 125 metres from 13 runs (including a team-high 38 post-contact metres) and 26 tackles without a miss. Did what his team needed without showing the full gamut of what he’s capable of. 7

9 WAYDE EGAN: This is the Wayde Egan that Fonzie, Andrew Johns et al have been banging on about. Clearly the best afield and almost certainly his best outing in first grade. We’ve come to realise he’s a smart hooker, but he was razor-sharp tonight and dynamic. Picked the right time to run every time, frequently attracting set restarts as well as getting Phoenix Crossland binned and giving Johnson and co vital space to work over the advantage line. Put Bunty over under the posts and – after a spell off the field when he looked very much worse for wear – scored a memorable match-sealer. Also racked up 33 tackles in a great display defensively. If that’s a standard Egan performance from now on – and he keeps getting a good platform to play off – this team can go places.  9

10 MITCHELL BARNETT: Fired up on Warriors debut against his former club and should be very happy with the way he went. Made 10 runs for 100 metres (a tally only two Knights forwards bettered) and was aggressive and tireless in defence, making 37 tackles. The type of guy whose stats probably won’t tell the story of his value to his team’s performance. 7

11 JACKSON FORD: Another low-profile off-season buy who trialled strongly and totally vindicated Andrew Webster’s call to start him over a bigger-name incumbent. His 149 metres was the best of any Warriors forward and included a blockbusting charge down the sideline, while his support play was good, he popped a couple of offloads and he toiled for 25 tackles. At first glance an upgrade on the likes of Bayley Sironen in the edge back-rower department. 7.5

12 MARATA NIUKORE: Didn’t feature much on attack besides coming close to scoring when running a good line under Johnson, finishing with eight carries for 64 metres. Defensively strong on the edge with 27 stops. We’ll see much better from him in 2023, but there was nothing wrong with this effort aside from two penalties and a ruck infringement. 6

13 TOHU HARRIS (c): A trademark captain’s knock. Went the full 80 minutes, carted the ball up 17 times for 138 metres, did some customary ball-playing – 11 passes including a deft line-break assist in the lead-up to the first try – and churned through a game-high 51 tackles. Absolutely immense from a player you can confidently now call a Warriors great as he begins his sixth season at the club. 8.5


14 DYLAN WALKER: I lamented the fact he wasn’t in the centres given our apparent weakness in that department, but the former Kangaroos and grand final-winning three-quarter was outstanding in the impact role he’s performed for Manly in recent seasons. Put Johnson through a hole soon after entering the fray, racked up 112 metres and 25 tackles in 46 minutes on the park and had a solid stint at dummy-half. Looms as a massive X-factor in a possible Warriors resurgence. 7.5

15 BUNTY AFOA: Barging over for his eighth NRL try was the headline moment, but Bunty got through a stack of work in 29 minutes on the field – seven runs for 62 metres and 20 tackles without a miss. Good shift. 6

16 JOSH CURRAN: Afforded just 20 minutes but came oh-so-close to nabbing a try not long after he entered the fray, denied by the Bunker after a fine effort to grab the loose ball and plunge over. Didn’t feature too heavily but provided plenty of energy during his stint. Gave away a penalty and a set restart. 5

17 TOM ALE: Very limited minutes but made the most of them, making four hard runs for 52 metres in just eight minutes late in the game. Great in the trials and destined to impress when given more of a role. 5.5

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