The New Zealand Warriors were clinical as they dismantled the Newcastle Knights 36-6 at Scully Park in Tamworth this afternoon.
There has been much talk in recent weeks that the top eight is already set in stone. The Warriors had something to say about that.
Tamworth took the Warriors team in earlier in the year when it seemed like their season would be over before it began.
They certainly repaid that faith this afternoon, with a dominant performance.
The danger signs were there early. Handling errors from David Klemmer and Star To’a in the first six minutes gave the Warriors field position.
They were good enough to take advantage, with Peta Hiku fending off Enari Tuala and then getting a flick pass away to Adam Pompey who managed to get the ball down in the corner.
Chanel Harris-Tavita converted from the sideline and the Warriors were off to a solid start.
The Warriors moved to 8-0 eight minutes later after Lachlan Fitzgibbon was penalised for a high shot on Kodi Nikorima.
The Warriors were dominating possession and field position so the Knights’ only try came against the run of play.
In their first entrance into the Warriors quarter, a Mitchell Pearce bomb was contested and Gehamat Shibasaki put the Knights on the scoreboard.
Kalyn Ponga curled the conversion in from the sideline and the Warriors led 8-6 after 20 minutes.
That was the way it stayed until half time. Both teams had their chances but were unable to convert.
The Warriors stepped it up early in the second half, with swarming defence keeping the Knights pinned in their half.
The chances came. Daniel Alvaro was rolled over in goal and just held up.
It was time for one of their leaders to take charge and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck did just that.
After a six again call from a Warriors pass that was touched, Tuivasa-Sheck beat Pearce with some trademark footwork and beat the cover defence to the line.
After a successful conversion, the Warriors had restored their eight point lead with twelve minutes gone in the second half.
The Warriors had played almost mistake free football and fatigue became a factor for the Knights.
After Harris-Tavita and Nikorima forced three back to back drop outs, the Newcastle defence finally cracked.
It came through Hiku, who punched a hole in the line, before getting a miracle flick pass to Pompey.
Pompey had Ponga to contend with but planted the ball down in the corner for his second try.
At 18-6, the game was still not over with fifteen minutes to go.
Starting from broken play, To’a made a long run through the Warriors defence and only wonderful cover defence from Harris-Tavita saved a certain try.
It also ended any hopes of a Newcastle fightback.
Just five minutes later, a cannonball penalty against Pasami Saulo gave the Warriors a sniff.
A switch of play got Tuivasa-Sheck into a little space. He found Hayze Perham and his pass to George Jennings was first class.
Jennings scored untouched and the Warriors were home.
The scoring didn’t stop there though, with Tuivasa-Sheck beating Mitchell Barnett, Pearce and Ponga to score his second try with six minutes to go.
With a minute to go, Jazz Tevaga dived over, after a well directed face ball, for a deserved try. The Warriors had won 36-6.
The Warriors only made two handling errors for the match and completed at 95%, effectively shutting the Knights out of the game.
Winning four of their last five games, if anyone is going to shake up the current top eight, it may well be Todd Payten’s team.
NRL News Player of the Game
Three points- Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – Tuivasa-Sheck was safe under the high ball, ran for 201 m and scored two quality solo tries. Whereas Ponga was well contained, Tuivasa-Sheck was the best player on the park.
Two points – Chanel Harris-Tavita – Harris-Tavita continues to impress at half back, controlling play and forcing multiple drop outs in the second half. His cover defence to bring down To’a late was a special play.
One point – Jazz Tevaga – Tevaga was busy in the middle, in both attack and defence. His ability to offload had the Knights defence backpedaling on many occasions.