An incredibly entertaining game of football took place at Hunter Stadium, in a match that saw the New Zealand Warriors down the Newcastle Knights 34-32.
It was a highly exciting match, with both sides producing some miracle plays with the ball in hand, but the defensive efforts of each team were lacking and questionable at times.
Warriors’ five-eighth Ata Hingano was named the Intrust Super player of the match, while Kurt Aldridge was the best for the Knights.
A beautiful set-play combined with some wonderful instinct allowed the Knights to cross first, when Dylan Phythian threw a ball to Lachlan Fitzgibbon, who turned it inside for Bryce Donovan to charge onto it and complete the try.
The Warriors hit back through the ever-reliable Jeff Robson just minutes later, after the Knights made an error off the kick-off set and gave away an immediate penalty. Taking advantage of the gifted field-position, Robson simply stepped off his right foot to beat the defender and lock the scores up at 6-all.
That lead was short-lived, as Matthew Soper-Lawler won a kick contest over Ken Maumalo to miraculously maintain possession and score for the Knights.
Warriors living-legend, Ali Lauitiiti, threw a great offload for Wells, who grubbered and re-gathered for himself, then got the ball to put Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad over to reduce the deficit to 12-10 as the conversion was missed.
The Warriors finally took the lead through a rampaging Shaun Lane, who embarrassed the Knights’ defence by powering through various defenders and seemingly planted the ball down with ease.
It seemed the Warriors were going into halftime with a handy four-point lead, but a truly magical Kurt Aldridge pass stopped that from happening, as he held the ball up perfectly to put Luke Yates through a hole.
The conversion meant the Knights had an 18-16 lead at halftime, and the previous try capped off an exciting attacking half of football.
Newcastle would be disappointed for letting the Warriors back into the game in the first half, but they repeat that error just three minutes after the break after Jazz Tevaga made a bust, and passed for a lingering Gustav Lino in support to run away and score.
Another disappointing defensive effort followed almost immediately afterwards when the Warriors were back on the attack. Ata Hingano simply danced around some Knights defenders and scored a simple try, to increase their lead to 28-18.
The Knights managed to turn it around, however, and after consecutive sets on the attack, Phythian threw a great ball for Fitzgibbon – who ran a perfect line – to reduce the deficit to 28-24.
A hint of a comeback was hindered, however, when Lino drifted left, and alike Aldridge before, held a ball up beautifully to put James Bell through a yawning gap.
Newcastle’s defence was a massive problem, but they refused to go down without a fight with the ball in hand, as a short-side play allowed Soper-Lawler to score his second try untouched.
A Soper-Lawler linebreak put the Knights straight back onto the attack, and after a repeat set thanks to a Warriors knock-on, Mao Uta finished off a right-to-left shift to bring the score back to 34-32.
Bryce Donovan had kicked four goals from four attempts, but sprayed the all-important conversion to the right, and a questionable Warriors penalty afterwards denied the Knights another try-scoring opportunity.