Results at the weekend have left the Stacey Jones-coached Vodafone Warriors on top of the Intrust Super Premiership points table.
They were second heading into their 14th-round away clash against bottom-placed Newcastle on Saturday and held on - if a little nervously - to win 34-32, their seventh straight victory,
The result took them to 22 points, level with the Mounties and first on points for and against.
The Mounties had the opportunity to reclaim first place against North Sydney on Sunday but suffered an upset 16-26 loss at North Sydney Oval leaving the Vodafone Warriors first (although the Mounties have a game in hand due to their encounter with Canterbury Bankstown being postponed last week).
The Vodafone Warriors' seven-game winning streak began on April 10 when they beat North Sydney 30-12 away. They followed it up by beating Newcastle (26-6) and Canterbury Banstown (42-12) at home, Penrith (32-16) away, Manly (42-30) and Wentworthville (32-20) at home and now the Knights away.
While running last, Newcastle gave the Vodafone Warriors plenty of bother on Saturday.
At various stages of the contest the Vodafone Warriors were seemingly on course for what should have been a comfortable win against a side with just one win this year.
They put together back-to-back tries to Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Shaun Lane to convert a 6-12 deficit into a 16-12 lead with halftime approaching.
Yet in the final moments of the half they conceded a converted try to allow the Knights to go to the break leading 18-16.
Coach Stacey Jones must have succeeded in calming his troops down because they came out and opened the second spell impressively.
First Jazz Tevaga surged up the middle of the field, Mason Lino pushing up in support for an unimpeded run to the line.
And soon after the brilliant Ata Hingano – later named man of the match – stepped his way through, Lino converting both tries to propel the Vodafone Warriors into a 28-18 lead just eight minutes into the second half.
The opportunity was there to go on with the job, to take the game out of reach.
Instead the Knights were invited back in with a converted try to Lachlan Fitzgibbon bringing the score-line back to 24-28.
In this up and down display, the Vodafone Warriors were on song again soon enough with the talismanic Lino holding the ball up sweetly to put interchange forward James Bell over. Lino’s conversion had the lead out to 10 points again at 34-24, although not safe the way this match was going.
And sure enough the Knights came back into it through Matt Soper-Lawler with his second but critically Donovan couldn’t convert to leave the Vodafone Warriors six points ahead at 34-28.
With errors giving Newcastle possession and field position, the heat was right on the Vodafone Warriors’ defence; in the 75th minute they couldn’t resist with Mao Uta crossing wide out. Again Donovan was wide with the conversion attempt.
Ahead lay a few nervous minutes for the Vodafone Warriors. They managed to negotiate the final passage holding on for their seventh straight win to move to first place on points for and against for now at least awaiting the outcome of the Mounties’ clash against North Sydney.
Ultimately goal-kicking was the difference with the Vodafone Warriors converting five of their six tries.
The Vodafone Warriors travel again next Saturday to face the in-form Newtown Jets at Henson Park (3.00pm kick-off local time; 5.00pm NZT).
Match details | Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Newcastle Knights 32 (Matthew Soper-Lawler 2, Bryce Donovan, Luke Yates, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Mao Uta tries; Bryce Donovan 4 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors 34 (Jeff Robson, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Shaun Lane, Mason Lino, Ata Hingano, James Bell tries; Mason Lino 4 conversions; Ata Hingano conversion).
Halftime: 18-16 Knights.
Referee: Adam Devcich.
Vodafone Warriors | Henare Wells; Ken Maumalo, Jonathan Wright, Matt Allwood, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; Ata Hingano, Jeff Robson; Ali Lauitiiti, Jazz Tevaga, Toafofoa Sipley; John Palavi (c), Shaun Lane; Ligi Sao. Interchange: Mason Lino, Upu Poching, James Bell, Tomas Aoake.
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