A 24-point second half scoring spree carried the One New Zealand Warriors to a 42-20 win over Newcastle providing success on debut for first-year New South Wales Cup head coach Slade Griffin.
Taking on the Knights in Saturday’s season-opening encounter at Pukekohe’s Navigation Homes Stadium, the home side was just 18-16 ahead at halftime but then outscored the visitors 24-4 to run away with the result.
In the process Griffin completed a trifecta of wins on debut for each of the One New Zealand Warriors’ new head coaches this season.
Adam Blair locked in the first leg when his SG Ball Cup side beat South Sydney 10-8 in his first match in charge on February 5 while new head coach Andrew Webster savoured a first-up triumph with last night’s 20-12 NRL win over the Knights.
It also means the three One New Zealand Warriors sides have so far put together a perfect run of five wins with Blair’s team seeking its fourth consecutive win in tomorrow’s encounter with the Knights in Newcastle.
For today’s New South Wales Cup contest, the One New Zealand Warriors fielded a rearranged side bolstered by four players from the NRL squad.
Fullback Taine Tuaupiki and halfback Ronald Volkman flew back from Wellington following the NRL side’s final field session at Sky Stadium while hooker Freddy Lussick and centre Viliami Vailea returned early this morning after last night’s first-grade triumph.
All four made scoreboard contributions in Pukekohe with Vailea, Lussick and Tuaupiki each scoring a try while Volkman was perfect with the boot converting each of the side’s seven tries.
The One New Zealand Warriors took time to settle, conceding a try in the opening minute and allowing the Knights to add two more for a 16-12 lead three minutes out from halftime.
However, the home side hit the front with a converted Demitric Sifakula try before picking up four second half tries to wrap up an ultimately convincing win.
The One New Zealand Warriors went into the match with former Toa Samoa international and back rower Michael Sio installed as captain for the season.
The well-travelled Sio collected the Sonny Fai Medal as the Warriors’ under-20 player of the year in 2013 and played for the club’s New South Wales Cup side in 2014. After a brief stint with the Mackay Cutters in the Queensland Cup in 2015 he signed with Wakfield in the Super League. His term included loan deals with Dewsbury and Halifax before he returned to the Queensland Cup in 2018 spending the last five seasons with the Norths Devils.
While Griffin has appointed Sio captain he has also named back rower Kalani Going as vice-captain.
Coming from the renowned Going clan in Northland he naturally has a strong background in rugby union.
He switched from union to rugby league when he was in Canberra’s system playing in the SG Ball Cup, NYC and NSW Cup from 2014-2018 as well as the Queensland Cup for Tweed Heads in 2018 and 2019. He returned home to union representing Northland in the National Provincial Championship but has switched back to league joining the Warriors this season.
The One New Zealand Warriors face the Sydney Roosters in Sydney next Saturday.
Navigation Homes Stadium, Pukekohe
One New Zealand Warriors 42 (Ali Leiataua 2, Viliami Vailea, Demitric Sifakula, Kalani Going, Freddy Lussick, Taine Tuaupiki tries; Ronald Volkman 7 conversions).
Newcastle Knights 20 (David Armstrong, Ryan Rivett, Keanu Wainohu-Kemp, Dylan Lucas tries; Ryan Rivett 2 conversions).
Halftime: 18-16 One New Zealand Warriors.
One New Zealand Warriors | Taine Tuaupiki; Setu Tu, Ali Leiataua, Viliami Vailea, Moala Graham-Taufa; Ben Farr, Ronald Volkman; Zyon Maiuu, Freddy Lussick, Isaiah Vagana; Kalani Going (vice-captain), Michael Sio (captain); Demitric Sifakula. Interchange: Paul Roache, Maia Sands, Mosese Faeamani, Tahi Baggaley