The Newcastle Knights have started 2008 on a positive note, with a gritty away win over the NZ Warriors. After being behind for most of the match, the Knights dug deep and got an important win as they seek to repair confidence damage from last year. The result was a 22-14 win for the Brian Smith coached side.
Playing at North Harbour Stadium, Auckland in poor conditions both sides showed enough in their early season hit out to impress their coaches for this year.
The Warriors looked well-drilled in the first half but fell away in the second as Newcastle showed more determination and coped with the wet conditions.
The hosts had jumped out to an early lead when when Patrick Ah Van scored from a Wade McKinnon grubber just two and a half minutes into the game.
Fellow winger Manu Vatuvei was bundled out in the corner three minutes later but he got over the line soon afterwards, picking up a cutout pass and stepping inside his opposite Aquila Uate and forcing his way over in a tackle.
Vatuvei was in the action again in the 24th minute, coming off his wing to break through on the right hand side of the field 40m from the line before delivering an inside pass to forward Wairangi Koopu, who had an unchallenged run to the line.
Warriors kicking machine Michael Witt missed his first two kicks of the year – both from the sideline – but he was on the board for the season when converting Koopu’s try from under the post.
Newcastle didn’t trouble the Warriors defence too many times in the first 30 minutes but they went close in the 32nd when Jarrod Mullen was hauled down near the line, and in the following play Mark Taufua was also held up just short.
The Warriors were nearly in again 11 minutes into the second half, a Nathan Fien try disallowed for a knock-on at a bomb.
But it was the visitors who scored next in the 57th minute as winger Cooper Vuna benefitted when a Warriors attack broke down and he ran 70m to score in the corner.
Newcastle were back in the game with 12 minutes to go when Chris Bailey scored after the Knights had forced a goalline dropout from the previous set of six.
Newcastle nearly got in front four minutes later when Uate caught a crossfield kick but he was unable to force the ball before crossing the dead ball line.
But a grubber kick down the right hand side with seven minutes to go allowed Zeb Taia to score in the corner, and with two minutes to go Richard Fa’aosi took a reverse pass to score under the posts.