An inexperienced Auckland Vulcans side came away from its taxing away trip to Newcastle with a 10-30 loss in Saturday nights third-round New South Wales Cup match at Cessnock Sports Ground.
Taking on the Knights without a number of players from the Vodafone Warriors NRL squad, the contest was effectively over at halftime with the Vulcans 0-24 down.
The only players in the line-up from the Vodafone Warriors wider NRL group were Alehana Mara, Suaia Matagi, John Palavi, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Siliva Havili plus Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and Atelea Nafetalai, who both trained with the NRL squad during the offseason.
By the 21-minute mark, the Rick Stone-coached Knights had a 12-0 lead and added two more converted tries in the last 14 minutes of the half to open up a commanding 24-0 margin.
Early in the second half the deficit became even more concerning for the Vulcans as Newcastle scored again to lead 30-0.
By then the Vulcans were also without their most experienced NRL player hooker Mara, forced off the field with an ankle injury.
But, despite being thin on experience and missing Maras expertise, the Vulcans fashioned an encouraging final stanza as they not only stemmed the flow of points but finished the match by scoring two tries in the closing six minutes through Taukeiaho and one-time Vodafone Warriors squad member Herman Retzlaff.
The Vulcans now have a nine-day break before their next match when they take on the Windsor Wolves in the first leg of an Easter Monday tripleheader at Mount Smart Stadium on April 1. The NSW Cup contest kicks off at 1.35pm followed by the Vodafone Junior Warriors facing North Queensland in the NYC at 3.45pm and then the NRL fixture between the Vodafone Warriors and the Cowboys at 6.00pm.
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At Cessnock Sports Ground, Cessnock
Newcastle Knights 30 (Marvin Filipo, Peter Mata'utia, Kevin Naiqama, Ben Tupou, Will Smith tries; Josh Mantellato 5 conversions).
Auckland Vulcans 10 (Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Herman Retzlaff tries; Agnatius Paasi conversion).
Halftime: 24-0 Knights.
Vulcans: Zoram Watene; Tangi Ropati, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Atelea Nafetalai, Esera Esera; Steve Waetford, Aaron Nootai; Suaia Matagi, Alehana Mara, Daniel Palavi; John Palavi, Sio Siua Taukeiaho; Murray Iti. Interchange: Siliva Havili, Agnatius Paasi, Herman Retzlaff, Pat Sipley.