The Newcastle Knights have come up with a shock upset win over the Warriors in Auckland, scoring a 20-4 win in dominant circumstances.
It was the dance of the desperate as the Warriors sought to salvage what had been a promising season, at least up until a month ago. Coming off the bye, the home side was seeking its first win in five games and some valuable competition points to help them into the finals series.
Match: Warriors v Knights
Round 22 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
They were hosting a Newcastle side in good spirits, whose otherwise miserable 2018 had been buoyed by an upset win over second-placed Mounties in Round 21. However, it was only the fourth victory for the Knights, who sit firmly rooted to the bottom of the table.
The game kicked in fine conditions at Mt Smart Stadium, however it quickly settled down into an arm wrestle in the middle of the park. Both sides were conservative around the ruck and content to try and probe a weakness in the opposition defence.
The Warriors looked the better side in the opening stages, however they were frustrated by good scramble defence from the Knights.
Eventually they were the ones who cracked first though, with Tom Hughes crossing to open the scoring. Brock Lamb converted and the Knights controlled the rest of the half with accurate kicking and simple one-out running.
The sides went to the sheds with the score 6-0, and it was obvious that the Knights could sniff a second upset in a row.
They doubled their lead after 53 minutes, when Nick Meaney scored near the uprights. Lamb was again on target, and the Warriors were facing an uphill battle to avoid another home defeat.
It didn't get any easier shortly after when Hughes got his double, even though the try was somewhat contentious in the build-up. Potential handling errors aside, the score was 18-0 it was going to take a miracle for the Warriors to storm home.
The home side did click into gear, however, albeit through a fortuitous piece of play of their own. A kick over the top took a friendly bounce for winger Junior Pauga, and he passed inside for Anthony Gelling to finally open the account with 10 minutes to go.
It would prove to be too little, too late. The Knights didn't let the mini-comeback phase them and ground out the remaining time, with Lamb taking a penalty in the dying stages to push the score out to 20-4.
Newcastle coach Rory Kostjasyn will be wondering where the impressive Knights side has been all year. One week after beating Mounties, they can now add another scalp to the tally and take some much-needed confidence into the final rounds of the season.
Meanwhile, the Warriors face the very real possibility of missing the finals altogether. Thoroughly outplayed, they let the Knights dictate terms for the majority of the match.
The Wariors face a tough trip across to Henson Park next weekend to play Newtown, and they will be under no illusions about the significance of that one. Newcastle head to Penrith, who will be on full alert at the Knights' sudden giant-killer status.