The New Zealand Warriors continued their run of good form in Newcastle on Saturday afternoon by dismantling the Knights to the tune of a 50-14 flogging. Winger David Fusitu'a was the star while Shaun Johnson took a back seat as the game unfolded.
Fusitu'a's four slays Knights
Fusitu'a's four tries was another cruel blow to Newcastle's season. The 21-year-old's amazing try-scoring ability was the Knights' kryptonite on Saturday afternoon with Fusitu'a able to double (and then some) his season tally of four-pointers. Sadly for Newcastle fans, Fusitu'a wasn't the first to score four tries against them this year with Shark Valentine Holmes doing so only a month ago.
"David is getting better and better every week. He's very good at finishing things off obviously but it was the rest of his game that I thought was the standout," Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said post-game.
"He had some tough carries and was belted a few times too. Newcastle were very aggressive but he handled it well."
Knights' new kids make their debut
Brendan Elliot and Mitchell Barnett joined Newcastle mid-week and were thrown into the deep end almost immediately against the Warriors. The Knights' left edge included the two recruits and they were joined by two 18-year-olds in five-eighth Jack Cogger and winger Cory Denniss. Barnett was solid without being spectacular while Elliot was almost Newcastle's best, scoring one try and saving plenty more.
"They both had some really good stuff. Brendan obviously scored a try and managed to save our left side on a number of occasions too which was great," Knights coach Nathan Brown said.
"'Barney' (Barnett) brought some good aggression and toughness to the side which was great. He'll watch back his game and he'll see areas where he can really improve.
"Unless he plays and consistently plays then he's not going to get better but I'm very comfortable he'll be a long-term proposition for us."
Warriors take winning ways on the road
The Warriors' win across the ditch was only the third time they have been able to do so in 2016. The Warriors have looked like a new side of late considering their 18-point win over the Broncos last weekend. McFadden was particularly impressed by his side's second half where they put a further 28 points on the scoreless Knights.
"We were a bit patchy in the first half. We did some really good things but there was a bit of looseness there as well," he said.
"But in the second half I thought we played with lots of energy. We did the job in that first 20 minutes after half-time which was important."
Defeats don't weary Knights' Cogger
Having been on the opposite end of a 156-30 scoreline in his three NRL games, young half Cogger has still earned plenty of admirers. Cogger set up both of Newcastle's tries in the first half and proven that his rise to first grade hasn't been premature.
"'Cogs' is a really good long-term player for the club and for an 18-year-old kid to go through what he's going through is tough. But I'm very comfortable he can handle himself well and not be affected by what's happening," Brown said.
"He definitely has a lot of talent and he's definitely the sort of player that'll help take the club into the future that's for sure."
Johnson not burdened by responsibility
Boasting one try assist by game's end, the fact Johnson didn't have to force his hand too many times will prove massive for the Warriors in the long run. Names like Blake Ayshford, Tuimoala Lolohea and Jacob Lillyman featured on the try assist tally instead and skipper Ryan Hoffman said it was a matter of his side playing what's in front of them.
"Shaun has such a great feel for the game. When he wants the ball, he calls it. We have forwards skilful enough to be able to do that too, but he can't do it all on his own either," Hoffman said.
"You saw with Tui putting himself into the game there and even the forwards tipping on passes to each another that we were making inroads."