Warriors beat gutsy Knights
The Warriors have held on to beat the depleted Knights 24-20 at Mt Smart Stadiumto keep their place in the Telstra Premiership's top eight.
Already missing key players Jarrod Mullen, Jeremy Smith and Kurt Gidley, Newcastle were further weakened four minutes into the contest when halfback Tyrone Roberts limped off and didn't return.
A bad situation quickly became worse for the visitors, after Bodene Thompson popped a pass out the back on halfway which put Shaun Johnson through a gaping hole where he found Tuimoala Lolohea on his outside for the first try.
Johnson converted for an early 6-0 lead.
Six minutes later the Warriors were in again, this time Manu Vatuvei jumping over Akuila Uate and shoving him to the side on route to his 17th try against the Knights in as many games.
An error from Sam Tomkins at dummy half gave the Knights a set inside Warriors territory minutes later, and from the ensuing scrum Dane Gagai took the ball at first receiver and sliced through the Kiwi line with ease.
The video referee was then called to action twice within minutes, denying the Knights a length of the field try and granting the Warriors their third of the match through prop Ben Matulino, taking the score out to 14-4.
With eight minutes remaining in the half, Uate squared the personal ledger with Vatuvei, beating the veteran Kiwi with footwork to score in the corner.
But with replacement kicker Tyler Randell unable to add the extras on either occasion the Knights were facing an uphill battle, behind 14-8 at the half.
It took only three minutes of the second period for the hosts to extend their lead through centre Solomone Kata, who made Beau Scott and Joseph Tapine look more like revolving doors as he burst through their attempted tackles and ran 30 for a soft try under the posts.
"We probably just had a couple of lapses in concentration with a couple of soft tries - the first try in the first half and probably the first try in second half to be honest were pretty soft tries in the context of the game," Knights coach Rick Stone said.
"I am really proud of the team, they got through their sets alright and competed pretty hard in defence. Like I said the lack of concentration hurt us a bit, some soft tries make a difference in close games."
Heading into the final 20 minutes - the period of the match where they concede more points than any other team in the Telstra Premiership - the Warriors gifted the Knights back-to-back sets which they gladly turned into a try via James McManus.
From the sideline with the rain starting to come down Randell added the extras to wrestle the score back to 20-14.
But a short time later the Knights right-edge defence was targeted with success again, as Johnson kicked behind the line for Jonathan Wright to slide over.
Another try to Uate with five minutes remaining ensured the type of nail-biting finish which is becoming almost customary with the Warriors in 2015.
But to the joy of most in the 13,203 strong crowd in Auckland the Warriors held on to win 24-20.
"I wouldn't say I am completely satisfied with it. We will take the points but it wasn't very convincing," Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said.
"We just gave up too many easy points and when you are trying to build pressure on a team you need to hold them out in those critical moments, and turn them away a lot more than we did."
The victory will be a welcome morale boost for the New Zealand side ahead of a daunting trip to Perth next week, where the defending premiers South Sydney await, while Newcastle will have their fingers crossed for some good news on the injury front ahead of hosting the Raiders on Saturday night.
Warriors 24 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Solomone Kata, Jonathan Wright tries; Johnson 2 goals) def. Knights 20 (Dane Gagai, Akuila Uate 2, James McManus tries; Tyler Randell, Gagai goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Crowd: 13,203. Halftime: 14-8.