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The Warriors put a dent in the Knights’ 2011 semi-finals campaign with a stirring 20-12 comeback victory at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 23 last year.
The Knights looked to be cruising when they raced to a 12-4 lead through the first 40 minutes courtesy of tries to winger Akuila Uate (23rd minute) and Adam MacDougall (36th minute). Meanwhile the Warriors’ sole point-scoring play came when Shaun Berrigan touched down in the 27th minute.
But the second half belonged to the Warriors, with 16 unanswered points sealing a drama-charged win that kept them in the hunt for the Telstra Premiership trophy.
They left their run until late however, with three tries in the final quarter of the match – including Shaun Johnson’s in the 58th minute, Simon Mannering’s in the 63rd minute (which gave them the lead for the first time in the match) and finally Feleti Mateo’s match-winner three minutes from the fulltime siren.
While Johnson scored the try that kick-started their revival the Warriors owed plenty to big Manu Vatuvei who made a 40-metre burst in the lead-up before slipping Johnson a miracle offload to gift his halfback an unopposed 20-metre stroll to the try-line.
Mannering scored minutes later after Akuila Uate failed to defuse a Johnson grubber kick into the in-goal, before Mateo delivered the knockout blow, the final cog in a smart break and passing interchange that was initiated by Aaron Heremaia and also involved five-eighth James Maloney.
The Warriors did extremely well to trail by just eight points at the break – they completed their sets at a woeful 61 per cent in the first stanza compared to the Knights’ 84 per cent.
However, the writing was on the wall given the first-half stats also showed that despite the possession drain they still managed to make five line-breaks to the Knights’ two.
Hooker Heremaia was a standout for the home team with a busy running game that yielded 98 metres, five tackle busts and two line-breaks, while Newcastle fullback Kurt Gidley made a game-high 15 runs for 142 metres.