Not really noted for their defensive resolve in recent years, it is all fans can talk about after the New Zealand Warriors opened their 2023 account with a win over the Newcastle Knights.
As they pulled off shuffling, goal-line tackles and showed starch in the middle, it was a game that did not have many points overall but still proved entertaining.
The Knights were dealt a blow early when Tyson Frizell went off with a HIA after just thirteen minutes but they would be the first to score points.
Those points came off the back of a slick pass from Kalyn Ponga, playing at 5/8, as he put Lachlan Fitzgibbon through a gap and the back-rower did the rest.
Up 6-0 and looking strong, the Knights would let the Warriors back into the game as they fell to pieces in the final fifteen minutes of the first half.
First, Ed Kosi scored, after Tohu Harris put Mitch Barnett through a gap. The next play, the ball went right and Kosi finished acrobatically.
Soon after, it was Warriors fan favourite who burst onto a short ball from Wayde Egan, and he powered over to score.
The Knights would bounce back in the second, however, as quick hands saw Ponga get the ball out to Hymel Hunt and he did the rest to score on the left.
That lead did not last long, however, as Brayden Wiliame broke down the left and found Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad on his inside to score.
Things took a further turn for the worse when Phoenix Crossland was sin-binned for repeated infringements by the Knights.
Despite the Knights’ best efforts to get back into the contest and score points, it was to no avail.
They were not helped when Ponga left the field with a HIA late in the game and the Warriors would eventually seal the game.
It was Egan who pounced, scoring a try after burrowing over from dummy half.
Warriors coach Andrew Webster admits it was not pretty but he was impressed with his side’s resilience and smarts under pressure.
“I am proud of the boys… we weren’t smart at times, I think we all know that, we made it hard for ourselves,” Webster said.
“But there were three big chunks of resilience that we had to have tonight, and I was really proud of that.”
The sentiments from Adam O’Brien were similar for his Knights team, as he acknowledged the good parts but knows that they have to be better.
We have got a lot to work on, but I’m really proud of the character of the group,” O’Brien said.
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Tohu Harris (WAR)
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1. Jackson Ford (WAR)