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Late defensive heroics see Warriors down Knights

A pair of try-saving tackles in the final 13 minutes ensured the Andrew Webster era at the Warriors got off to a winning start on Friday night, as they emerged 20-12 winners over the Knights in a tense affair in Wellington. 

With their side up 14-12 and in the midst of relentless pressure from Newcastle, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad held Kalyn Ponga up over the line to stop a certain try, before Adam Pompey arrived at the last second to stop Hymel Hunt from scoring eight minutes from full time. 

A late Wayde Egan try and Shaun Johnson conversion then put the result beyond doubt. 

Rolling out a side which contained just two players from their final game of the season last year, and featuring seven off-season signings, the Warriors gave up a try before the game was even two minutes old, but fought back to lead at the break and eventually overcome Newcastle in the second half, with their new-look forward pack leading the way. 

The Knights lost back-rower Tyson Frizell to a failed HIA after 13 minutes, and in the second half were reduced to 12 men when Phoenix Crossland was binned midway through for being the latest in a string of penalties conceded.

Afoa hard and straight

Earlier the Knights opened the scoring with Lachlan Fitzgibbon strolling through Shaun Johnson off a Ponga pass.

But if the start was a dream for the Knights, the 15 minutes before half time were something from coach Adam O'Brien's nightmares, as his side leaked a try to Ed Kosi before kicking out on the full and giving up another to Bunty Afoa four minutes later. 

The hosts could have had more too, with Marata Niukore held up over the line and Brayden Wiliame spilling the ball close to the line in the minutes before half time. 

In the second half a Hunt try and Jackson Hastings sideline conversion briefly gave the visitors the lead, before Nicoll-Klokstad scored to put his side back in front. 

Both sides then survived long periods camped on their own line, before the Warriors rallied to score late through Egan and secure their fourth win in their last five games in Wellington. 

Match snapshot 

  • The Warriors won 20-12 after a gutsy defensive effort in the final 15 minutes, which included try-saving tackles from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Adam Pompey. 
  • Newcastle lost back-rower Tyson Frizell to a failed HIA after 13 minutes, while fellow forward Adam Elliott was placed on report for a late shot on Dylan Walker.
  • Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad spilled the first kick sent his way, and on the ensuing use of the ball Kalyn Ponga helped isolate Shaun Johnson in defence, with the halfback no match for a charging Lachlan Fitzgibbon who scored. 
  • Ed Kosi then saved a try on 13 minutes with a thumping tackle off his wing on Bradman Best which caused a knock on. 

Kosi brings the heat

  • Fifteen from the break Tohu Harris sent Mitchell Barnett through a gap, and while the prop couldn't score himself or find a support player, on the next set Ed Kosi dived over in the corner, but with Johnson's kick missing the hosts still trailed 6-4. 
  • Marata Niukore came very close to adding a third a short time later, but was held up, while Brayden Wiliame spilled the ball on a good chance close to the line just before the break. 
  • Five minutes into the second period Newcastle stripped the Warriors for numbers down their left edge, finishing with Hymel Hunt scoring and Hastings nailing a clutch sideline conversion for a 12-10 lead. 
  • After breaking free just over halfway, Williame found a racing Nicoll-Klokstad, who rounded Dom Young to put the Warriors back in front. 
  • A dropped ball from Hunt was regathered and touched down over the line by Josh Curran 25 minutes from time, but on further inspection the Bunker found a double knock on. 
  • Adam Elliott was then placed on report and Phoenix Crossland sent to the sin bin for being the latest in a string of persistent infringements from the Knights. 

Crossland binned

  • Both sides soaked up prolonged periods camped on their own line in the final 20 minutes, with Nicoll-Klokstad and Adam Pompey saving certain tries, before Wayde Egan scored and Shaun Johnson converted to seal victory. 

Egan sneaks over

Play of the Game

A simply incredible try-saving tackle after Kalyn Ponga had carved through the defence. Nicoll-Klokstad had a rough start to the game when his error led to a Newcastle try, but was brilliant after that, with this tackle the pick of his plays on the night. 

Charnze take a bow

What They Said

"I am proud of the boys... we weren't smart at times, I think we all know that, we made it hard for ourselves. But there were three big chunks of resilience that we had to have tonight, and I was really proud of that." - Warriors coach Andrew Webster. 

Warriors: Round 1

"We've won the first couple of [Round 1] games previous to this, but I reckon there's more character in this team. We have got a lot to work on, but I'm really proud of the character of the group." - Knights coach Adam O'Brien. 

Knights: Round 1

What's Next

The Warriors head across the Tasman for back-to-back away games, starting with the Roosters on Saturday, with winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak a chance of being available. Newcastle now enjoy a nine-day turnaround before facing the Wests Tigers in Round 2, by which time they hope Frizell (head knock) Dane Gagai (hamstring) and Greg Marzhew (hip) will be available for selection again. 

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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