David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Defence key to Warriors improvement

Daniel Saifiti of the Knights is tackled by the Warriors defence. Photo / Getty
Daniel Saifiti of the Knights is tackled by the Warriors defence. Photo / Getty

The Warriors attack is humming but their newfound defensive steel was the highlight of Saturday's clinical 50-14 win over Newcastle.

Carrying on from last week's impressive win over Brisbane, the Warriors ran rampant to pile on nine tries against the last-placed Knights at Hunter Stadium.

The visitors looked in control from the outset but a patchy first-half saw them twice let 10-point leads slip before going into halftime ahead 22-14.

The Warriors kicked clear after the break with five tries but captain Ryan Hoffman took greater satisfaction from an improved defensive effort that kept the Knights scoreless in the second-half.

"We made the point at halftime that we just wanted to really make sure we didn't give them an opportunity to get back into the game and we showed that with our defence," said Hoffman.

"We're always going to back ourselves to score points but to defensively hold them to zero is something we're really happy about."

Scoring 86 points in their last two outings, the Warriors have improved their win-loss record to six and seven to surge into ninth spot on the premiership ladder.

Another dominant forward effort provided front-foot ball to allow playmakers Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai to dictate terms, and backline youngsters Solomone Kata, Tui Lolohea and four-try stand-out David Fusitu'a are reaping the rewards.

While their combinations continue to develop, coach Andrew McFadden credited his side's ability to both absorb and build pressure.

"If we can just control possession, that's a big part of our game," he said.

"They were really physical, they got off the line and they were aggressive, but we kept our composure under those moments and managed to find the line."

The unforced errors and cheap penalties that marred their early season efforts have been drastically reduced, and the past two games have also seen the Warriors enjoy their fair share of luck.

They benefitted from good fortune when kicks rebounded off Knights players in the lead-up to Vatuvei crossing in the 23rd minute and Fusitu'a's second in the 49th minute, but an improved mind-set and greater intensity has helped them get the rub of the green.

"When you're competing hard you make your luck," he said. "That's what we believe and that's what we're doing at the moment.

"The bounce of the ball sometimes goes with you and sometimes goes against you and we've probably been getting a bit of luck lately."

They now eye a third-straight win when they host the struggling Sydney Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday, but are sweating on the fitness of Vatuvei, who is in doubt with a hamstring strain.

The 15th-placed Roosters are a shadow of the team that claimed the minor premiership in each of the three past seasons, but McFadden insists the Warriors are not getting ahead of themselves.

"We're feeling good about our game. We can never get too carried away, it's only two wins now and there's a long way to go.

"But the positive thing is we feel confident in our game, we're getting that confidence and we've just got to keep working hard."

- NZ Herald

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