An inspired defensive performance from the NYC Newcastle Knights saw them beat the New Zealand Warriors 26-12 at Mt Smart Stadium on Monday afternoon.
While the red and blues scored five tries, it was the desperation and resilience in defence that meant they came away with the two points against a tough Warriors side.
Props Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Tyrone Amey were strong for the Knights, their 150 running metres apiece providing the platform for halves Jack Cogger and Brock Lamb to control the tempo for the majority of the game.
The Warriors sent the ball out of play from kick-off, giving the red and blues some easy early field position. Taunoa-Brown managed to get over the line in the following set, but the Warriors did well to hold him up.
The visitors got their try five minutes later, hooker Joe Morris feigning a pass from dummy-half to slip over the line. Brock Lamb added the extras from straight in front, but ten minutes later the Warriors struck back against the run of play when Chris Sio dived over.
From the Knights’ ensuing kick off the Warriors made another big error, Bunty Afoa dropping the ball cold 20 metres out from his own line. Morris jumped on the opportunity in the next set, shredding through the Warriors’ defence from ten metres out to grab his second try.
The home side started to build up some steam over the following ten minutes, but the Knights were more than up to the challenge when they fought off several spirited repeat sets on their own line.
It was a brilliant showing in defence, and clearly influenced the Warriors’ decision when they asked for the kicking tee for a penalty 30 seconds from half time. At the break, the Knights led 12-8.
The start of the second half was a real arm wrestle between the two forward packs, until Cogger popped up out of nowhere to make a 30 metre line break and give debutant Dean Kouka Smith an easy try near the uprights.
Five minutes later a Warriors infringement in the ruck gave the Knights another two points, Lamb slotting the penalty kick from ten metres out to make the score 20-8.
With 60 minutes played the Warriors scored their second try, winger Levi McBirney just getting his fingers to a low pass to score in the corner. Zion Ioka couldn’t get his conversion on target from the sideline, and with pressure mounting on the Knights in the following set Lamb jumped on a loose ball to run 60 metres and relieve his side.
With the Warriors looking dangerous it was a big play from Lamb, and outside back Henry Penn reaped the rewards five minutes later as he capped off the momentum swing with a try on the right flank. Lamb converted to make the final score 26-12.
Knights 26 (T: Morris 2, Kouka Smith, Penn, G: Lamb 3/3, P: 1/1)
Warriors 12 (T: Sio, McBirney, G: Ioka 1/12, P: 1/1)
1. Nick Meaney, 2. Kainoa Gudgeon, 3. Dean Kouka Smith, 4. Henry Penn, 22. Ken Tofilau, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Jack Cogger (c), 8. Tyrone Amey, 9. Joe Morris, 10. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, 11. Eddy Tuilotolava, 12. Braden Robson, 13. Ryan Glanville. Interchange: 15. Zac Hosking, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Jordan Pinnock, 20. Jayden Butterfield.
1. Kane Telea, 2. Lewis Soosemea, 3. Junior Panga, 4. Melino Fineanganofo, 5. Levi McBirney, 6. Sheldon Pitama (c), 7. Zion Ioka, 8. Bunty Afoa, 9. Chris Sio, 10. Isaiah Papalii, 11. Ofahiki Ogden, 12. Joseph Price, 18. Jerome Mamea. Interchange: 14. Tualima Tualima, 16. Koli One One, 17. Keanu Dawson, 20. Henry Pei.