The New Zealand Warriors went on to win 50-14 against the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium, but all the talk was around David Fusitu’a who scored four tries in the victory.
Trailing by just eight points at the break, the Knights were right in the contest until the Warriors flicked the switch to produce some great attacking raids.
Fusitu’a was the primary beneficiary of it all, scoring a second half hat-trick.
With new recruits Mitch Barnett and Brendan Elliott making their club debuts for the Knights and making a decent impression, it was not enough to stop the Warriors onslaught.
The game could have been very different, if not for a dropped ball by young prop Daniel Saifiti over the line.
Knights coach Nathan Brown says the dropped ball is indicative of the side not yet having the fight or resolve needed in games.
“When we dropped the ball with the line open, it was similar to what’s happened a number of times,” Brown said.
“We don’t have the resolve, fight or experience if you like to be able to regroup after things don’t go our way. If we’d got that try I think our mindset would’ve been fairly different. Off the back that moment, they scored and things became ugly.”
Although the Knights showed heart and passion, that does not win games and the Warriors left and right side attack clicked as numerous players scored tries.
Prop Albert Vete scored a rare double, both powerful runs over the try-line.
There were some good signs from the Knights for young half Jack Cogger, however, who laid on two good try assists to show that he is a player to watch moving forward.
The only sour note for the Warriors was hulking prop Manu Vatuvei unable to finish the game due to a hamstring complaint.
After the four try effort from Fusitu’a, Warriors coach Andrew McFadden was quick to praise his efforts.
“David is getting better and better every week. He’s very good at finishing things off obviously but it was the rest of his game that I thought was the standout,” said McFadden.
“He had some tough carries and was belted a few times too. Newcastle were very aggressive but he handled it well.”
Blooding two new recruits in a game is never an easy task for any player but Brown was pleased with the performances of Elliott and Barnett.
“They both had some really good stuff. Brendan obviously scored a try and managed to save our left side on a number of occasions too which was great,” Brown said.
“‘Barney’ (Barnett) brought some good aggression and toughness to the side which was great. He’ll watch back his game and he’ll see areas where he can really improve.
“Unless he plays and consistently plays then he’s not going to get better but I’m very comfortable he’ll be a long-term proposition for us.”
Player of the Game:
3. Issac Luke
2. Tuimoala Lolohea
1. Blake Ayshford
New Zealand Warriors 50 (David Fusitu’a 4, Albert Vete 2, Manu Vatuvei, Bodene Thompson, Solomone Kata tries; Shaun Johnson 5, Issac Luke 2 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 14 (Sione Mata’utia, Brendan Elliot tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 12,222. Half-time: Warriors 22-14.