A near-perfect first half from the New Zealand Warriors blew the Newcastle Knights off the park, recording a 52-24 victory to open the season.
Manu Vatuvei was a welcome addition to the Intrust Super Premiership NSW side, but it was Mason Lino and Sam Cook who shone brightly for the Warriors.
The Warriors led 42-4 at the break, and to the Knights credit, came out of the sheds at half-time full of positive attitude and character, and actually out-scored the home side in the second half.
The threat of Vatuvei was imminent just four minutes into the contest when the Warriors shifted the ball towards his wing and the Newcastle defenders overcompensated. The ball carrier, Matt Allwood, noticed an opportunity when the Knights held off him as they prepared for ‘the beast’ to get the ball, which allowed him to straighten and burst through a hole for the opening try.
A classy touch from Lino doubled the Warriors total just four minutes later, when he held a ball up beautifully for King Vuniyayawa who powered his way over, putting the Warriors up 12-0 with an 82 per cent weight of possession on their side.
Off the ensuing set, Cook took advantage of back-tracking markers to make a line-break, and the Knights’ defence could not recover, with Lino putting in a perfect grubber for Allwood to athletically plant the ball down for his second try.
The Knights finally earned field position with a penalty in the 15th minute, and immediately capitalised when William Pearsall put Nicholas Meaney through an alarmingly wide hole to burn through and open the visitors’ account.
Disaster then struck for Newcastle, as they allowed the following kick-off to bounce, and the ball was re-gathered by Vatuvei, and nobody was stopping ‘the beast’ on his way to the try-line, pushing the Warriors’ lead out to 24-4 after just 19 minutes.
The Knights forced their way onto the attack, but in the space of a minute conceded another try. Lino intercepted the ball on his own line and made an 80 metre dash, before he dribbled a grubber into the in-goal area a few tackles later that was knocked on by Pearsall, and Cook pounced on the ball.
Some great work from Blake Ayshford prevented a Lino pass being potentially intercepted by the Knights, before throwing a pass with his back turned for Junior Pauga to score untouched.
A powerful charge by Tevita Satae ticked the scoreboard over to 40 before the half-time break, which came off the back of a Newcastle error.
The half-time score was 42-4, but it was the Knights who opened the scoring in the second half, with Tom Hughes crashing over after receiving a beautiful flat-ball from Jack Cogger.
The Warriors hit straight back through Cook though, who darted over from dummy half, but then Braden Robson capitalised on a Lino mistake to score for the Knights.
While Newcastle were heavily behind on the scoreboard, a second-half resurgence began to appear, with Cory Denniss finished a right-to-left shift to score another try for the Knights.
A beautiful two-man cut-out pass by Lino that found Pauga brought up the half century for the Warriors, and also proud up the young winger’s second try of the afternoon.
Alike his first try, Denniss completed a shift to score his second try on the stroke of full-time, making the final score 52-24 to the Warriors.