By Robert Crosby.
The Newcastle Knights have broken a four-match losing run, downing the New Zealand Warriors 12-0 in wet conditions at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Fielding a new-look squad headlined by seven players still eligible for Jersey Flegg - including five debutants - the Knights posted two early tries before backing their defence to move within four points of the top eight.
Starting full of confidence following a wealth of possession, Jacob Gagai delivered a superb cut-out pass to send winger Toby Marks (3rd minute) over for his first try in Canterbury Cup NSW.
Getting out to a 10-0 lead moments later, Gagai (9th minute) capitalised upon a Warriors error by regathering his own grubber to touch down next to the posts.
Working their way into the match by improving their discipline, the visitors closest chance of the first half came just before the break with Adam Keighran sending up a monstrous bomb spilled backwards by Gagai, only for Chanel Harris-Tavita to knock on with the line in sight.
Adding a penalty goal on the stroke of halftime after Warriors mid-season purchase Josh Curran was placed on-report for making contact with Bayden Searle while kicking, the Knights took a well-earned 12-0 lead to the change of ends.
With neither side able to make a dent on the scoreboard in the second 40 due to the wet conditions, the Knights came closest to extending their lead with a wayward attempt at penalty goal in the 60th minute, while moments later Kiah Cooper was beaten to a grubber by the dead ball line.
Growing increasingly frustrated at their inability to penetrate the Knights defence, Warriors second rower Taane Milne was sent to the sin bin for making high contact on Tevita Alifa in the 67th minute.
Remaining resilient in defence to deny Warriors winger Setu Tu during the closing stages, the 12-0 result saw the Knights hold an opponent scoreless for the first time in 2019.
Next week the Knights host the Bulldogs on Friday evening, while the Warriors have the bye.
Knights 12 (Marks, Gagai tries. Searle 2/4 goals).