Opening round disappointment continued for the Vodafone Warriors as Newcastle scored 18 unanswered second half points for a 24-14 win in today’s NRL clash at Hunter Stadium.
The defeat was countered by an encouraging display by the club’s New South Wales Cup side which scored three tries in the last 12 minutes to come from six points behind to win 26-18 against the Knights.
In the first leg of the tripleheader afternoon, the Vodafone Junior Warriors began their NYC title defence with a heavy 16-41 loss after being level 16-16 at halftime.
NRL | VODAFONE WARRIORS 14, NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 24
The Vodafone Warriors’ plans for the contest were hampered by injury issues with fullback Sam Tomkins and would-be debutant wing Ken Maumalo ruled out with hamstring injuries.
Earlier in the week senior prop Sam Rapira also joined the injury list and the contest was only 15 minutes in when centre Konrad Hurrell went to the sideline with a leg injury.
It meant the Vodafone Warriors fielded anything like the combination they had hoped to use with back rowers Simon Mannering and Ben Henry both in the centres and Solomone Kata, who had trained to start in the centres, moved to the right wing.
After Newcastle had opened the scoring through a Dane Gagai try, the Vodafone Warriors settled into their work notably with debutant props Albert Vete and Sam Lisone thrown into the fray early and acquitting themselves well.
Their first try followed a brilliant Chad Townsend 40-20 with Thomas Leuluai steaming onto a Suaia Matagi short ball to cross. It was referred upstairs for the ball grounding and also for the suspected contact of a knee with Leuluai’s head.
Leuluai was taken from the field immediately with a cut to the head. The video referees would determine that Tyrone Roberts was guilty of contact with his knee resulting in a so-called eight-point try being awarded. With the conversion and the subsequent penalty, Johnson took the Vodafone Warriors into an 8-6 lead after 26 minutes.
Tuimoala Lolohea, having an outstanding first half at fullback, and Manu Vatuvei both made huge breaks. Lolohea’s should have ended in a try, only his pass infield was blocked.
Vatuvei didn’t score from his surge out of defence but it resulted in a try moments later when Nathan Friend went to a short left for the impressive Ryan Hoffman to score in his first game for the club.
With Johnson converting for a 14-8 lead there had been much to like about the Vodafone Warriors’ work and they opened up in the second half in similar vein.
They were threatening to score again when second rower Bodene Thompson was tipped over in a dangerous tackle by Sione Mata’utia. Instead of going for a shot at goal, the Vodafone Warriors went for a repeat set, received another penalty and also benefited when Newcastle was reduced to 12 men after David Fa’alogo was sent to the sin bin.
It gave the Vodafone Warriors an opportunity to profit yet it was Newcastle which set the tone during this period, not only protecting its own line but creating a try as well, the second of the match for Gagai.
By the time the Knights had their complement restored to 13, there had been a shift in momentum as the home side began to win a share of penalties. They turned it into points as well with interchange dummy half Tyler Randell crossing in the 65th minute to give his side an 18-14 lead.
The Vodafone Warriors weren’t without opportunities to hit back but there was cause for alarm when Gagai intercepted and cleared away before being tracked down by Lolohea.
Despite the desperation to get numbers back, the Knights finished off the raid, centre Joey Leilua checked by multiple defenders but still flopping out an off load for Robbie Rochow to score the try that clinched victory.
Match details | Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Newcastle Knights 24 (Dane Gagai 2, Tyler Randell, Robbie Rochow tries; Tyrone Roberts 3 conversions; Tyler Randell conversion).
Vodafone Warriors 14 (Thomas Leuluai, Ryan Hoffman tries; Shaun Johnson 2 conversions, penalty).
Halftime: 14-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Ashley Klein and Chris Butler.
Vodafone Warriors | Tuimoala Lolohea; Solomone Kata, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Henry; Manu Vatuvei; Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Thomas Leuluai, Ben Matulino; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering (c). Interchange: Nathan Friend, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Suaia Matagi.
NEW SOUTH WALES CUP | VODAFONE WARRIORS 26, NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 18
Stacey Jones was able to savour immediate success in his New South Wales Cup coaching debut as the Vodafone Warriors finished impressively to beat Newcastle 26-18.
There was never more than six points in the contest until the Vodafone Warriors stretched to lead by eight points in the final stages.
While they conceded a try through some in-goal indecision in the second minute, they were always well in the contest scoring twice in the last 15 minutes of the first half to lead 12-6 at the break.
Api Pewhairangi went close before loose forward James Bell powered over and nine minutes later Pewhairangi and impressive fullback Viliami Kaveinga combined on the left to arrange space for centre Matt Allwood to score.
The tone changed in the opening stages of the second half as the Knights enjoyed a flow of penalties to dominate with a level of possession the Vodafone Warriors couldn’t answer. The upshot was two tries which enabled Newcastle to go out to an 18-12 lead after 52 minutes.
The Vodafone Warriors were patient, though. Bell was denied a second try as he lost control endeavouring to ground the ball but 10 minutes later the side’s three-try winning surge took lfe.
First Kaveinga went over wide out in the 68th minute and three minutes later Sione Lousi ran off Sam Cook to put his side into a 2018 lead.
Pewhairangi had the final say with a smart try – although he injured his shoulder in the process – with Cook converting for an invaluable first-up win.
Match details | Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Newcastle Knights 18 (Josh Allison, Danny Kerr, Jake Finn tries; Danny Kerr 3 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors 26 (James Bell, Matt Allwood, Viliami Kaveinga, Sione Lousi, Api
Pewhairangi tries; Api Pewhairangi 2 conversions; Sam Cook conversion).
Halftime: 12-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Liam Nicholls.
Vodafone Warriors: Viliami Kaveinga; Saula Solomona, Dominique Peyroux, Matt Allwood, Jarrod Tua; Api Pewhairangi, Sam Cook; Nathaniel Peteru, Zac Tippins, Upu Poching; John Palavi, Sione Lousi; James Bell. Interchange: David Bhana, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Stedman Lefau, Willie Peace.
NYC | VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS 16, NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 41
After battling with the Knights toe-to-toe in the first half, the Vodafone Junior Warriors were heavily outpointed in the second half of their opening NYC clash of the season.
They began with a Tomas Aoake try in the third minute and bagged two more through Ata Hingano and Jazz Tevaga to be level 16-16 at halftime.
While the Knights scored in the second minute of the second half there was nothing in the contest until the final 14 minutes when Newcastle blasted home with three tries and a field goal to win 41-16.
Match details | Hunter Stadium
Newcastle Knights 41 (Josh Birch 2, Luke Yates 2, Bryce Donovan, Danny Levi, Brock Lamb tries; Bryce Donovan 5 conversions, field goal; Brock Lamb conversion).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 16 (Tomas Aoake, Ata Hingano, Jazz Tevaga tries; Ata Hingani 2 conversions).
Referees: Jon Stone and Kasey Badger.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Paul Ulberg, Marata Niukore, Semisi Tyrell, Tomas Aoake; Ata Hingano, Erin Clark; Bunty Afoa, Nathaniel Roache (c), Toafofoa Sipley; Ofahiki Ogden, Matiu Love-Henry; Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: Paul Tuli, Tualima Tualima, Tamati Ioane-Niko, Isaiah Cooper-Tetevano.