The New Zealand Warriors have gained a valuable two competition points with a 32-24 win against the Newcastle Knights today in Newcastle.
They were extremely lucky though as it took them some sixty minutes to awaken from their slumber.
At eighteen points a piece after sixty minutes, the game could have gone either way. Until then, neither team were able to take control of the game and ram home an advantage.
With a strong wind behind them in the first half, the Warriors did not use it to their advantage. Likewise, in the second half, the Knights were the same. Very rarely did either side kick early in the tackle count to make the most of the strong wind.
It was the Warriors who finally decided to spend their time productively by putting Manu Vatuvei over in the 63rd minute. Five minutes later James Maloney kicked a penalty goal to give his side an eight point lead. Despite Newcastle bouncing back in the 71st minute with a try to Matt Hilder, it was the Warriors who finished the stronger.
It’s just that it took them awhile to play the way they are capable of playing.
Until the 60th minute, the Warriors had played the worst of the two sides, but, due to having more firepower overall, managed to squeeze through with the win. With the bye next weekend, this was effectively a four point game for them.
From the opening whistle they looked rudderless. Within the first three minutes of the game, they had made two horrific errors. First Jerome Ropati knocked the ball back from an awful Issac John pass. Once he had regathered, he was manhandled back into his in-goal area for a goal line drop-out.
Not long after, Lance Hohaia was taken over the sideline on the first tackle. Not surprisingly, the extra possession this handed Newcastle led to them getting Junior Sow across for their first try in the 4th minute.
Even though the Warriors scored the next two tries, this did not stop them from finding inventive ways to invite Newcastle back into the game. There were passes pushed that did not need to be pushed. Not only this, but there was no discernible go forward from the forwards. There was a lot of lateral movement with a flurry of passes, usually to teammates in positions worse than what the passer was. They just looked flat mentally.
Then there was the sight of Maloney kicking the ball dead on the full from the restart after the Knights second try. Sure, it was an almighty gale, but wouldn’t one allow for that? Like putting the ball along the ground most of the way. Including the in goal area, he had a 3000m2 area to land the ball. It’s a big area, so why can't he hit it?
However, somehow they did manage five tries, and with a 100% success rate with the boot for Maloney, it was enough to get them over the line for the win.
That a lot of their play was of a helter-skelter nature will be of concern to coach Ivan Cleary. However, for now, a win is a win.
And they have kept themselves in the hunt for finals football.