KNIGHTS V WARRIORS | Newcastle Knights overcome by power and aggression in a 20-4 loss to the Warriors in Auckland on Friday night

Size, aggression and speed.

Everything the Knights aspire to have, the Warriors already possess in spades and it was the difference in last night’s 20-4 victory by the home side in Auckland.

Only some defensive bravery from the Knights in the second half prevented the scoreline from blowing out further. At 18-4 with 29 minutes left on the clock, that was the fear.

The Knights began well enough and deserved their 4-0 lead after a suspect Mitchell Pearce pass found winger Ken Sio, who did well to force his way over.

But once the Warriors found their groove, their big men stole the momentum and the warning signs were out by halftime with the home side up 12-4.

With every energy-sapping tackle they were forced to make, the Knights found themselves losing the ruck battle and off the back of that dominance, the Warriors little men made their mark.

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was simply brilliant.

The Knights’ game plan was to keep the ball away from the sweet-stepping fullback.

Move their big forwards around and kick down the channels on short sides and slow their momentum by finding touch. Limit the space of their back three.  

Easier said than done. Tuivasa-Sheck found hectares of space.

A staggering 338 metres of it. The stats men counting his metres and the number of times he beat the first defender should have been on double pay.

Herman Ese'ese on the charge.

Herman Ese'ese on the charge.

Playmaker Blake Green was another to benefit from the home side’s great go-forward and their ability to create second phase in traffic with off-loads.

It was his solo try against a tiring defence off a quick play-the-ball in the second half where he beat three defenders that gave the game a sense of inevitability about the outcome despite their being almost 30 minutes left.

At that point, the Knights of the past few seasons would have crumbled under the pressure and the flood gates would have opened.

But instead they showed some fight. And had Aidan Guerra not spilled a Mitchell Pearce grubber over the line five minutes later, they may well have made life interesting for the Warriors in the final 20 minutes.

It was a perfectly executed set move, the same one that produced a try for the Knights middle forward earlier in the season. But this time, he botched the put-down.

With his time over, Guerra may have just tried to force the ball with downward pressure rather than attempt to pick it up centimetres from the ground.

The golden opportunity was lost and there were too few of them in the game for the Knights to expect they would get another.

Prop Herman Ese’ese was the pick of the Knights and could not have worked harder in the middle while Sio was terrific.

 Pearce and Kalyn Ponga, both hampered by injury, did all they could to spark the side but were often playing off the back foot which made life difficult. 


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