Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Warriors end slump by crushing Knights

Solomone Kata scores against the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Getty
Solomone Kata scores against the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Getty

Thank goodness. The Warriors have won an NRL match, beating the Newcastle Knights 40-18, in an entertaining Easter Monday clash.

The result snapped a three game losing streak to start this year, and was the Warriors' first win since July last year.

It wasn't always convincing - especially in the first half - but from where this team has been all that mattered was the two points.

The match was in the balance for most of the first half, with Newcastle shading an error-ridden Warriors team, who continued to go too lateral when direct was the best option.

But when the game locked at 12-12 at halftime, the home side turned on the style in the second half, crossing for five tries to put the result beyond doubt.

As it happened: Warriors v Knights

It's not time to break out the champagne and cartwheels - as this team is still far from the finished product and Newcastle were brave, but limited - but at least the Warriors now have a platform to start the season.

Shaun Johnson gave a great response to his critics with an encouraging display while Ben Matulino was the best forward, and probably the best player on the field.

The Warriors made a great start - their best beginning to a match in recent memory - as Solomone Kata crashed over in just the third minute. The impetus came from Matulino, who got through the line then offloaded to Issac Luke to create real momentum. It's something we've barely seen from the Warriors this year.

A few minutes later Manu Vatuvei appeared to score but it was too good to be true, with the much maligned video bunker finding fault. A third opportunity was lost when Jeff Robson rushed a pass, which gifted possession and eventually led to the Knights scoring through Sam Mataora, who steamrolled over the top of Luke.

Three minutes later Newcastle crossed again; an uncharacteristic Simon Mannering mistake led to a turnover and a simple wrap play saw Dane Gagai cross untouched. From there the arm wrestle finally started, after the frenetic beginning to the match.

The Warriors were still inaccurate but some spirited defence twice denied Newcastle a third try, which given the circumstances of this season might have been a deal breaker.

The home side created their own chances with another try rubbed out by the NRL's latest bizarre interpretation of the obstruction rule, similar to the Melbourne Storm no-try last week.

The Warriors finally found some impetus two minutes before halftime, with Matulino barging over near the posts off a Charlie Gubb pass.

The second half felt like a different match. The Warriors again started well - with a Blake Ayshford try inside five minutes - but this time they went on with it. They were camped inside Knights territory for almost the entire first 20 minutes of the second spell and profited with well worked tries to Tui Lolohea and Manu Vatuvei. They were both out wide, but the damage was being done up the middle, with Konrad Hurrell playing a welcome cameo before he was forced off by a chicken wing tackle.

Johnson came up with a trademark solo try against a tiring Knights defence, before Luke capped a mixed home debut with a dart from dummy half for a four pointer.

Warriors 40 (S Kata, B Matulino, B Ayshford, T Lolohea, M Vatuvei, S Johnson, I Luke tries; S Johnson 6 goals)
Knights 18 ( S Mataroa, D Gagai, N Ross try; T Hodkinson 3 goals)
Halftime: 12-12

- NZ Herald

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