The NSW Cup Newcastle Knights lost 28-22 to the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
The Knights were leading 16-4 at half-time following great attacking football, but some defensive errors in the nine minutes following the interval saw them concede three rapid-fire tries.
Chad Redman gave his side the first chance in attack with a 40-20 in the third minute, but the Knights couldn't make anything of it when Jaelen Feeney's end of set kick was easily scooped up by the Warriors' defence.
Despite the strong start the visitors found themselves on the back foot five minutes later when James Taylor and Pat Vaivai conceded a penalty ten metres out from their own line.
The Warriors needed no second invitation from there, halfback Mason Lino playing a neat short pass for Raymond Faitala-Mariner to score. Lino was unable to convert from an easy position though, leaving the score at 4-0 with ten minutes gone.
The Knights had their second chance when Viliami Kaveinga fumbled a Jake Mamo high ball five minutes later, but in the following set a clamouring run from Clint Newton was cut short when he was held up over the line.
A clever kick from Dylan Phythian gave the Knights their second repeat set though, and they made no mistakes this time when Phythian threw a clever cut-out ball for Honeti Tuha to score. Kerrod Holland's attempted conversion sailed wide from the sideline, leaving the scores even with 17 minutes played.
The Knights nearly scored again four minutes later when Tuha batted back a chip from Mamo, but centre Chanel Mata'utia was unable to latch onto the ball before it went out of play.
The Warriors earned themselves another penalty ten metres out from the Knights' line soon after, but Holland stopped a certain try on the right flank when he got a hand to Viliami Kaveinga's pass.
The Knights scored a remarkable try in the 31st minute when a Phythian kick was collected by Tuha, who offloaded to a scrambling Fitzgibbon. Fitzgibbon then offloaded to Phythian, who played the ball out wide for Chanel Mata'utia to score in the corner. Holland made no mistakes with his kick this time, giving the Knights a 10-4 lead.
The away side were gifted another opportunity five minutes later when Lino's kick went out on the full and forward Jake Finn took full advantage, dragging three defenders over the line to score. Holland again converted, pushing the score to 16-4 when the half-time siren sounded three minutes later.
A dropped ball barely one minute after half time from Ben Tupou gave the Warriors the platform to grab their second try of the match, left winger Ken Maumalo receiving a quick pass from Dominique Peyroux to score. Lino again missed his conversion, albeit from the sideline, to leave the score at 16-8.
From kick-off the Warriors made 100 metres to score again, Paul Ulberg wrong-footing Tuha on the right edge. Lino's kick was spot-on this time, effectively erasing the Knights' half-time advantage.
The Warriors weren't done though, Faitala-Mariner crossing over for his second try three minutes later. Lino again converted, giving his side a four point lead to cap off a horror nine minute spell for the Knights.
The men from the Hunter used back-to-back penalties to regain a semblance of control from there on in, but that didn't stop the Warriors when fullback Sam Cook broke through a weak tackle to score ten minutes later. Lino was unable to convert, keeping the home side's lead at ten points.
Despite surrendering such a big lead the Knights didn't let their heads drop, continuing to work on their attacking plays despite some unforced errors.
It paid off in the 70th minute when halfback Feeney threw a dummy to score left of the uprights, and Holland added the extras to leave the scores poised at 24-22.
With only two points between the sides the Knights threw everything into attack, leaving holes in defence that the Warriors used to race up the field in one set and score again via Kaveinga. Lino again failed to convert, but the Warriors still finished the game with a 28-22 win.
Newcastle Knights 22 (T: Tuha, C Mata’utia, Finn, Feeney, G: Holland 3/4)
New Zealand Warriors 28 (T: Faitala-Mariner 2, Maumalo, Ulberg, Cook, Kaveinga, G: Lino 2/6)
Mamo, Tuha, Dow-Nikau, C Mata'utia, Holland, Phythian, Feeney, Filipo, Redman, Vaivai, Fitzgibbon, Newton (c), Taylor. Bench: Kerr, Steele, Tupou, Finn.