The New Zealand Warriors moved up to third on the ladder after a superb come back from a 4-16 halftime deficit to beat the Newcastle Knights 28-22.
After conceding 16-unanswered points in the last 25 minutes of the first half, the Warriors produced an explosive opening 10 minutes in the second half by scoring 16 points of their own to leap to a 20-16 lead.
They extended to a 24-16 lead but had to withstand a frantic final stanza before emerging with their seventh win of the season to sit two points behind the top two sides Penrith and Mounties.
The Warriors also had to overcome adversity before achieving their fifth-straight win at home, being reduced to 16 players when they lost young prop Toafofoa Sipley early in the contest.
The 20 year old’s VB NSW Cup debut ended in disappointment when he was helped off the field with a knee injury after just 10 minutes.
The stoppage for Sipley’s injury had a positive result for the Warriors as they struck from the resulting penalty awarded for a strip on Sipley.
Going to the right, halfback Mason Lino served up a lovely ball for Raymond Faitala-Mariner to surge onto for an 11th-minute try. Lino’s conversion from a handy position was wide.
Less than six minutes later the Knights were on even terms as they profited from repeat sets near the Warriors’ line. Keeping the ball alive, they created room on their left for wing Honeti Tuha to score an unconverted try wide out.
The score remained locked at 4-4 until the 31st minute when the Knights won the contest for a last-tackle kick, flipped out a couple of great off loads and found centre Chanel Mata’utia unmarked to score in the corner to give the Knights a 10-4 lead.
It became 16-4 five minutes later when interchange forward Jake Finn got the ball down with two defenders on him, Holland again providing the extras.
Right on halftime the Warriors bombed a try that could have brought them back to 10-16 at the break. Api Pewhairangi broke clear but interchange forward Paki Afu couldn’t hold onto the final pass with the line in front of him.
If the Warriors’ performance was off the mark in the first half, they could scarcely have been more impressive in the opening 10 minutes of the second spell.
The big man Faitala-Mariner was inspirational with a massive bust up the middle finishing up on the left with wing Ken Maumalo scoring out wide.
Almost immediately they were in again as Faitala-Mariner powered over for his second try to bring the margin back to 14-16.
The blitz wasn’t over as the Warriors, with a large amount of possession, kept the foot down and struck again with great hands putting right-winger Paul Ulberg clear for a try. Lino converted to put the side 20-16 in front.
It took a while but sustained pressure brought reward as the Warriors penetrated down their left edge with fullback Sam Cook driving through to score wide out. Lino couldn’t convert but the Warriors had an important eight-point lead at 24-16.
Inthe final stages the Knights had a chance of stealing victory when a converted Jaelen Feeney try left them just 22-24 behind. They forced a kick in-goal seeking a repeat set but Lino cleaned up and ignited a fantastic set.
First he broke upfield before Maumalo’s strong run and off load released Ulberg on a long break down the right. Moments later, centre Viliami Kaveinga snuck across from dummy half but Lino couldn’t convert leaving his side six points ahead with three minutes to go.
With a minute left, Lino was wide with a field goal attempt giving Newcastle a seven-tackle set and another chance to steal victory. They went close in the final seconds but desperate defence from Maumalo secured victory.
New Zealand Warriors 28 (Raymond Faitala-Mariner 2, Ken Maumalo, Paul Ulberg, Sam Cook, Viliami Kaveinga tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions) def. Newcastle Knights 22 (Honeti Tuha, Chanel Mata’utia, Jake Finn, Jaelen Feeney tries; Kerrod Holland 3 conversions)