Warriors 26 Knights 22

The Warriors have finally started an NRL season with a victory - but it wasn't pretty. They have beaten the Newcastle Knights 26-22, with a 73rd minute Ryan Hoffman try proving the match winner.

They'll take the win, and it breaks an opening day hex that dates back to 2009, but coach Stephen Kearney won't be particularly happy.

The Warriors led 20-8 at halftime but clocked off badly in the second half - and were fortunate Trent Hodkinson missed two consecutive conversions - before they found something in the last 10 minutes.

It's the kind of performance that won't be good enough against most teams in the NRL, and a lot of improvement is needed.


Remember, this was a Newcastle team that had won only one game last season, and were on an 18 game NRL losing streak. They don't have many recognisable names, as coach Nathan Brown blooded a number of rookies in 2016.

From the start, nothing much had changed from last year, as Kearney was given an introduction to the harsh reality of coaching at Mt Smart.

The Warriors dropped the ball on the first tackle of their first set in 2017, and proceeded to make five more errors in the next 25 minutes. Passes were dropped cold, kicks went out on the full and bombs were shelled.

Inevitably, the Knights opened the scoring; it's simply not in the Warriors' DNA for everything to go to plan, especially on important occasions.

The Auckland club had started brightly but were undone by their errors, before Peter Matautia outjumped Tui Lolohea to a precise Hodkinson kick. The Newcastle centre looked offside - the bunker didn't bother to check - but Knights deserved their advantage.

The Knights could have extended their lead - as the Warriors invited them into their territory again - but weren't good enough to take advantage, before the home side finally got rolling.

David Fusitua crossed with his first chance inside the Knights' 20 metre line, running off a delayed Johnson pass, before Solomone Kata continued his try scoring knack, set up by a brilliant Roger Tuivasa-Sheck cut out ball.

But the best was yet to come. Fusitua's second try will be one for the highlight reels, courtesy of a spectacular mid-air `Alley-Oop' from Lolohea, who caught the ball outside the touchline, before passing basketball style inside to the centre.

The icing on the cake came five seconds before halftime, as Johnson conjured up a one handed flick pass, in the best traditions of former Knight Matt Gidley, to give Fusitua his hat trick.

Unfortunately, the Warriors left their best form in the sheds, and came out flat in the second half. It looked like they felt the game was already won, and they switched off for long enough to allow the Knights to get back into the game. Issac Luke and Simon Mannering leaving the field didn't help, but this team has to be strong enough to cope with such adversity.

Newcastle's second try will concern Kearney. After the Warriors had scrambled well, Jack Stockwell ran through the heart of the Auckland team's defence. The grounding looked marginal - but why give the bunker the chance to make such errors?

Two tries to winger Nathan Ross - both of them soft - brought the visitors back in the lead with 13 minutes to play, as the crowd of 13,712 were stunned into silence.

It was looking seriously bleak, until Hoffman forced his way over off an Ata Hingano pass to restore their advantage with seven minutes to go.