17 Sep 2023

Warriors best Newcastle Knights at Mount Smart, after stunning start

6:21 am on 17 September 2023
Addin Fonua-Blake of the Warriors scores a try against the Newcastle Knights

Addin Fonua-Blake of the Warriors scores a try against the Newcastle Knights. Photo: Photosport

The Warriors have bested the Newcastle Knights 40-10, and are now a single victory away from their third grand final appearance.

It took just one-and-a-half minutes for the home side to score. A Shaun Johnson cut-out pass close to the line sent fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in for the opening try of the match.

Wayde Egan burrowed over a few minutes later, but was held up by the visitors.

From the next set Johnson found hard-running prop Addin Fonua-Blake, who thundered through the defence for the second try.

After 10 minutes, the Warriors were scoring a point a minute.

The Knights had barely touched the ball, but when they had it, the Warriors defence forced them into mistakes.

There is an old saying in sport: fatigue makes cowards of us all, and as Newcastle's players tired, they let in a third try. Winger Marcelo Montoya found space on the left side of the field after simple hands through the backline, holding off the Knights' Tyson Gamble to dot down in the corner. And Adam Pompey slotted the conversion from the sideline to make it 16-0.

The Warriors could not have asked for a better start. Their dominance was proved in that it took 18 minutes before the Knights got their first penalty.

Giant centre Marata Niukore hobbled from the field in the 20th minute as Newcastle finally got their hands on the ball. Their patience was rewarded. The Mt Smart faithful were silenced when Greg Marzhew slipped over out wide. Kalyn Ponga missed the difficult conversion, with the score 16-4 as the half-hour mark approached.

Egan was held up over the line for a second time, which proved the closest either side would go to scoring in the final 10 minutes of the half. Second-rower Tyson Frizell was placed on report for a high hit on Montoya, with the score 16-4 at the break.

The Knights rode their luck at the start of the second half. A speculative kick from the visitors bounced off the chest of a surprised Montoya, with the ref saying he had played at it. From the next set, Adam Clune popped a pass to Dylan Lucas that the crowd certainly thought was forward, with the barnstorming second-rower barging over to make it 16-10.

Fans cheering during the NRL elimination final match at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday.

Fans cheering during the NRL elimination final match at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Photosport/ Aaron Gillions

The Warriors regained momentum three minutes later, when another Dylan crossed the line at the other end of the ground. Captain Tohu Harris did the hard work, brushing off defenders and getting to within 10 metres of the line, before dummy half Wayde Egan found Dylan Walker running like a bullet. He ricocheted off the uprights for the sixth try of the game, with the home side jumping to a 22-10 lead.

With 20 minutes left in the game, Rocco Berry scored for the Warriors with the most important try of his NRL career. The schoolboy rugby star somehow found the line despite the attention of two would-be defenders. It was the moment the Warriors wrapped up the match.

Minutes later, the curly mullet of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak flashed over, with Pompey's conversion making it 34-10 to the hosts.

The Knights' star player Kalyn Ponga had a quiet night. He was reduced to a mere mortal, with Shaun Johnson and company dominating on the field and scoreboard.

Johnson was given a rest with seven minutes to go, saluting the crowd as Bayley Sironen put the icing on the celebratory cake. His try made it 40-10, the Warriors booking their spot in next week's grand final qualifier against the Broncos in Brisbane.

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