A defensive masterclass paved the way for the Vodafone Warriors to move within one win of the grand final after dominating Newcastle in a 30-6 win in tonight's sudden-death Intrust Super Premiership semi-final at UOW Jubilee Oval in Sydney.
Right across the park the Vodafone Warriors delivered a cocktail of intensity and aggression on defence, especially on their line, as they denied the Knights a try until the final moments of the match.
Missing a number of their key performers, the Vodafone Warriors dropped their week one finals clash 20-36 to Penrith but couldn't have rebounded any more impressively to keep their season alive.
In the opening 19 minutes they had shouldered a heavy defensive workload, forced to repel a number of sets on their goal-line.
They did it expertly, too, ultimately transitioning out of defence to work the first try of the contest as soon as they had a sniff.
It came in the 20th minute and predictably enough the influential Mason Lino was the architect. The play came out to the right, he slipped through a delightful grubber and centre Matt Allwood, making his 49th ISP appearance for the club, raced through to pounce for his 12th try of the season. Lino's conversion veered just inside the near upright for a 6-0 lead.
When two points were on offer twice soon after the Vodafone Warriors chose to go again and, in the 34th minute, had further reward from the pressure they were applying.
First Ata Hingano produced a fantastic 40/20 kick. From the repeat set the ball came left to Hingano; with a show and go he ghosted through and just managed to get the ball down on the line for Lino to make it 12-0.
The lead was the least the Vodafone Warriors deserved after a polished first 40 minutes.
They began the second spell just as effectively, setting the tone with their up-tempo, pulverising defence and solid possession football based around their big forwards dominating up the middle.
In the 49th minute more points came, Hingano punching a teasing low kick towards the posts. Lino and fullback Zac Santo put pressure on, Santo stealing the ball and getting it down between the posts. Lino took a knock in the contest for the ball so Junior Pauga took the conversion instead to open up an 18-0 lead.
It was set to increase when a Hingano kick wasn't tidied up in-goal by the Knights but the ball curled away from wing Bureta Faraimo hunting the try-scoring opportunity.
The Vodafone Warriors' defensive work was nothing less than exceptional all night. They kept turning up time after time, monstering the Knights with some massive contact, the quality of their work best illustrated by the way they held up veteran Knights forward Mickey Paea over the line four times and later denied him a fifth time.
There had to be points on the end of the defensive effort and in the 66th minute they came, prop Charlie Gubb - inspirational throughout - off loading to hooker Manaia Cherrington who pumped a long pass wide to the left for the prolific Faraimo to snare another try. Lino's conversion was superb for a 24-0 lead.
Six minutes later lovely hands close to the ruck uncorked the try of the night, Cherrington clearing to Albert Vete from dummy half and the big prop delightfully popping a sweet ball back inside for Santo to jet onto and scorch 60 metres for the touchdown. Lino was again clinical with the conversion to take the advantage out to 30-0.
The one blot on the night's work came in the final minutes when the Knights worked a try for right wing Curtis Naughton but the win was well and truly sealed, setting up a preliminary final next weekend against minor premier Wyong.
UOW Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
Vodafone Warriors 30 (Zac Santo 2, Matt Allwood, Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Bureta Faraimo tries; Mason Lino 4 conversions; Junior Pauga conversion).
Newcastle Knights 6 (Curtis Naughton try; Nick Meaney conversion).
Halftime: 12-0 Vodafone Warriors.
Vodafone Warriors | Zac Santo; Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Matt Allwood, Junior Pauga, Bureta Faraimo; Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Mason Lino (c); Charlie Gubb, Manaia Cherrington, Daniel Palavi; Ofahiki Ogden, Isaiah Papali'i; James Bell. Interchange: Jazz Tevaga, Albert Vete, Ligi Sao, Toafofoa Sipley.