Warriors hold off Knights to take win
A late try from Ryan Hoffman saw the Warriors survive a rollercoaster clash against the Newcastle Knights and open their 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership campaign with a 26-22 win at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday.
Earlier it had appeared centre David Fusitu'a's stunning hat-trick in the first half would be the main talking point come full-time, until the Knights stormed back from a 20-8 deficit at the break to lead 22-20 inside the final 10 minutes.
But in the end the home side found just enough to get past the 2016 wooden spooners, picking up their first Round 1 victory since 2009 in the process.
Newcastle drew first blood via a Peter Mata'utia try and conversion and penalty from Trent Hodkinson, but produced a glut of errors to leak four quick tries and trail at half-time.
Fusitu'a crossed three times between the 27th and 40th minutes, with Solomone Kata also getting over just after the half hour, to give the home side a 12-point advantage at half-time.
The Warriors carried momentum into the second period, but once again it was Newcastle who scored first after interchange forward Jack Stockwell powered through would-be tackles from Bodene Thompson and Isaiah Papali'i for a converted try.
When Nathan Ross scored with 18 minutes to go, following a Warriors ruck penalty on halfway, Newcastle looked like they were building, and five minutes later they took the lead thanks to another Ross try in the left corner.
With eight minutes left and his team backed up against their own line, new Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck produced arguably the game's most important play, with a lengthy kick return which saw them go 90 metres to force a line dropout at the other end.
On the ensuing set Hoffman powered over from short range, despite a desperate effort from Brock Lamb, to deny Newcastle their first win in 11 months.
On the injury front the Warriors lost both Issac Luke (ribs) and Simon Mannering (neck) early in the second stanza, while Newcastle fullback Dylan Phythian also left the match in the second half with a suspected ACL injury.
New Zealand Warriors 26 (David Fusitu'a 3, Solomone Kata, Ryan Hoffman tries; Shaun Johnson 2, Issac Luke 1 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 22 (Peter Mata'utia, Jack Stockwell, Nathan Ross x2 tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 goals) at Mount Smart Stadium. Half-time: 20-8. Crowd: 13,712.