The Newcastle Knights earned a hard fought 28-22 victory over a tough New Zealand Warriors at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
The game saw its fair share of Mata’utia magic with 18-year-old Sione scoring not only his first try in the NRL but a hat-trick and brother Chanel, celebrating his 22nd birthday also crossing the line.
The Knights were boosted by the return of Jarrod Mullen back in the number six jersey after missing two games with an abdominal injury as well as Beau Scott, who missed one week due to concussion.
Despite two late changes for the Knights, the home side had plenty of energy and dug deep to secure the win against a sixth-placed Warriors.
A stray arm that collected Dane Gagai’s high saw the visiting captain Simon Mannering on report five minutes in.
The Warriors gave the Knights good field position with two errors on their line but the Knights were unable to capitalise.
A penalty then went to the Knights when the Warriors were caught offside and a superb Mullen chip kick saw Sione score his first try in the NRL.
Gidley failed to convert from the sideline with the Knights leading 4-0 after 11 minutes.
The Knights had the Warriors on the back foot managing more than 70 per cent possession in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Gidley and Mullen built pressure with their kicking game and the Knights execution was top notch.
The left corner proved lucrative with Joey Leilua scoring after beating the Warriors defence one-on-one. The lead stretched to 8-0 after Gidley missed again from the sideline.
The Knights went in for their third five minutes later. Sione found space after receiving the ball off a scrum feed to sprint 90 metres to record a double. Gidley added the extras to bring Knights lead to 14-0 in the 27th minute.
The Warriors were on the board in the 35th minute when winger David Fusitua launched himself to ground the ball in the corner. Townsend missed the conversion with the Knights leading 14-4.
The Warriors clawed the lead back with a try to Manu Vatuvei with two minutes left in the first half to see the Knights go into half time with a 14-10 lead.
The Warriors came out firing in the second half with Nathan Friend scoring in the 42nd minute levelling the score at 14-all when the conversion was missed.
The Knights took the lead again when Sione Mata’utia scored a spectacular third try for the day. He flew through the air under enormous pressure from his opposite number to place the ball over the line.
Gidley added the extras from the sideline to stretch the team’s lead to 20-14 in the 53rd minute.
The Knights creative play on their line saw the ball kept alive before Warriors knocked on the ball 10 metres out.
The Knights were awarded a penalty with 16 minutes left in the game and opted to take the two. Gidley kicked the penalty to extend the lead 22-14.
Three minutes later, Mullen cut out two on the right to find Dane Gagai, who passed to Chanel Mata’utia, celebrating his birthday with a try in the corner.
Gidley missed the conversion with the score remaining at 26-14.
The Warriors Fusitina scored his second of the day with Townsend missing the kick from the sideline to bring the score to 26-18.
The Knights got a penalty for a late hit on Roberts and again opted to two, to lead 28-18 with six minutes remaining.
The Warriors kept the ball alive after a bomb on the sixth tackle to put Manu Vatuvei over on the corner in the 75th minutes.
The Warriors threw everything at the Knights trailing 28-22, when Leilua saved an almost certain Warriors try in the final minutes of the game.
The Knights dominance was too strong for the Warriors with the Knights securing another victory, 28-22 in front of a home crowd at Hunter Stadium.
Newcastle Knights 28 (T: S Mata’utia 3, Leilua, C Mata’utia, G: Gidley 2/4, P: Gidley 2/2)
New Zealand Warriors 22 (T: Fusitua 2, Vatuvei 2, Friend, G: Townsend 1/5)