Knights 20
Warriors 0

So much for all that early season optimism.

It's only round one, and there were some mitigating factors, but the Warriors were comprehensively beaten 20-0 by the Knights.

The Auckland team will improve, and be reinforced by the return of some injury absentees in the next few weeks, but this wasn't the round one statement they would have been seeking.

Advertisement

Especially as they might be marooned in Australia for the next few weeks, after the New Zealand government announcement earlier on Saturday afternoon that all people arriving into the country would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

This game was done and dusted with more than 25 minutes to play, when Kalyn Ponga crossed for the Knights' third try.

The miserable conditions in Newcastle, with driving rain and a gale-force wind, meant the Warriors couldn't display the more open style that had been practicing over the pre-season, but they were still convincingly out-pointed in all areas.

Coronavirus' impact on world sports. VIDEO / Sky Sport
Chanel Harris-Tavita looking dejected after the Warriors lose to the Knights. Photo / Photosport
Chanel Harris-Tavita looking dejected after the Warriors lose to the Knights. Photo / Photosport

They struggled to create much of note on attack, looking predictable with most of their offensive play, and worn down by some brutal Newcastle defence.

There were some impressive moments on defence, especially when the Warriors were down to 12 men in the first half, but they were still opened up several times.

But at least they didn't cave in, only conceding one try in the final 63 minutes of the match, while rookie Eliesa Katoa had an impressive debut, running for almost 150 hard-won metres.

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck gave his usual wholehearted display, while Kodi Nikorima made an impact in the second half but few others had much to be happy about, with halves Blake Green and Chanel Harris-Tavita both struggling, while the forward pack was well beaten. After some encouraging early moments, the Warriors were exposed up the middle after eight minutes. Mitchell Pearce dragged the defenders one way, before sending Daniel Saifiti back the other, and the huge prop trampled over two tacklers to score from eight metres out.

The Warriors couldn't get a foothold in the game, undone by a constant stream of penalties. They conceded seven in the first quarter alone, with Tuivasa-Sheck warned about his team's discipline as early as the 16th minute.

Advertisement

It meant the Knights had all the momentum, despite playing into the teeth of a strong wind, and it was no surprise when they extended the lead in the 17th minute, though it was slightly fortunate as a fifth tackle grubber took a ricochet, which bounced straight into the arms of Kurt Mann, who set up Edrick Lee to run to the corner.

Edrick Lee of the Knights celebrates scoring against the Warriors. Photo / Getty
Edrick Lee of the Knights celebrates scoring against the Warriors. Photo / Getty

The signs weren't great, especially when Harris-Tavita was sinbinned two minutes later; referee Henry Perenara losing patience with one penalty too many.

But thankfully, the Warriors then dug in, defending with verve and energy to emerge unscathed from the short handed period. Wing Patrick Herbert went closest in the first half, stopped dead a metre out by Ponga.

In the miserable conditions it was hard to achieve much fluency in attack, but it was no excuse for the disorganised end to the first half. With a full set of six deep inside Knights territory after a penalty, a wild pass from dummy half resulted in a dropped ball on the second tackle, bringing back unfortunate memories of last year.

With 30 minutes to play, the Knights were 14 points up after a couple of Ponga penalties and the match looked beyond the visitors. That feeling was confirmed with the Knights' third try, the fullback sliding over after a precise Pearce kick.

The Warriors had a couple of chances late on for a consolation, but it wasn't to be, as the Knights proudly kept their line intact, achieving their first NRL shutout for six years.

Newcastle Knights 20 (D Saifiti, E Lee, K Ponga tries; K Ponga 4 goals)
New Zealand Warriors 0
Halftime: 10-0