The Newcastle Knights lost 40-18 to the New Zealand Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium on Easter Monday.
While the red and blues led early, they were unable to hold on against a desperate Warriors team on home soil.
Penalties and errors conceded after plenty of hard work took their toll on the Novocastrians as well, while late inclusion Jake Mamo was forced from the field midway through the second half due to injury.
The Knights conceded a penalty in their first set, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck spinning out of a tackle soon after to play Solomone Kata through the line for a try.
Shaun Johnson’s sideline conversion was on target and two minutes later the Warriors threatened again from a high kick. Manu Vatuvei looked to have scored on his return from injury when Mamo spilled the bomb, but the video bunker ruled a knock-on from Kata in the build up.
The Knights bounced back several minutes later, Sam Mataora breaking out of a tackle to race ten metres and score. Trent Hodkinson’s conversion sailed over, and soon after the playmaker leapt onto a loose ball from Jeff Robson to grab his side another opportunity.
Dane Gagai was the beneficiary, the athletic fullback weaving past three markers in the next set to score his first try of the 2016 season. Hodkinson again converted, the score 12-6 with only 15 minutes played.
Five minutes later the Warriors were denied by the video bunker again, ruling an obstructon from Simon Mannering in the Tuimoala Lolohea try.
With 28 minutes played an enterprising move from the Knights nearly saw them score again, Jarrod Mullen dinking the ball over the defensive line for Gagai to palm the ball back. Lachlan Fitzgibbon looked a chance to find the line soon after, but the Warriors held firm.
It was the home side’s turn to threaten soon after when the referee ruled obstruction ten metres out from the Knights’ line, but the red and blues clung grimly on and Nathan Ross eventually came up with the ball.
There was no stopping the Warriors four minutes from half time when they used two penalties to roll up the field. Ben Matulino fended Fitzgibbon off, the big prop strolling over the line and Johnson converting to make the scores even.
The Warriors got a lucky bounce to open the scoring in the second half, Johnson’s end of set kick ricocheting off Levi to allow the playmaker to scoop it back up and play Blake Ayshford through for an easy four points.
Five minutes later the Warriors piled on more points, Lolohea getting his try at the second time of asking when Johnson sent the ball wide. Soon after Vatuvei got his try on the opposite side as well, the score 30-12 with Johnson converting on both counts.
It didn't get any easier for the visitors in the 58th minute as Mamo was forced from the field with an ankle injury. It looked as though Mullen would be following him soon after when he was tackled from behind, but after several minutes prone on the turf he was determined to carry on.
With 15 minutes left on the clock Johnson pulled something special from his bag of tricks, teasing the Knights’ defensive line on the right before going for the kill in the corner.
The Knights continued to hang on, but the fatigue showed when Issac Luke ran over from dummy-half minutes before full time.
Nathan Ross created something from nothing soon after, stepping his way through the line from a scrum to race 50 metres and score. Hodkinson converted, the final score 40-18.
Knights 18 (T: Mataora, Gagai, Ross, G: Hodkinson 3/3)
Warriors 40 (T: Kata, Matulino, Ayshford, Lolohea, Vatuvei, Johnson, Luke G: Johnson
1. Dane Gagai, 2. Nathan Ross, 5. Cory Denniss, 4. Pat Mata’utia, 18. Jake mamo, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Sam Mataora, 14. Danny Levi, 10. Korbin Sims, 11. Jacob Saifiti, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 9. Tyler Randell, 15. Mickey Paea, 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 17. Pauli Pauli.
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. Tuimoala Lolohea, 3. Blake Ayshford, 4. Solomone Kata, 21. Manu Vatuvei, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Jeff Robson, 8. Jacob Lillyman, 20. Issac Luke, 10. Ben Matulino, 13. Simon Mannering, 12. Ryan Hoffman (c), 17. Albert Vete. Interchange: 9. Jazz Tevaga, 14. Charlie Gubb, 15. Sam Lisone, 16. Konrad Hurrell.