Warriors v Knights: Five key points
A David Fusitu'a hat-trick and a try from Ryan Hoffman with seven minutes left on the clock saw the Warriors edge past the Knights 26-22 in a topsy-turvy clash on Sunday. Here are the five key talking points from the Round 1 match at Mount Smart Stadium.
Warriors sloppy, but courageous
They started slow and surrendered a 20-8 lead early in the second half to almost snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but new Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said his side displayed some special resilience to get the two Telstra Premiership points.
The Warriors looked set to collapse to a shock loss when they trailed the Knights 22-20 with eight minutes remaining, but found enough to secure a late win.
"I thought the boys showed some great courage to be able to come from behind a couple of times, they could have let it drift away from them, but they didn't," Kearney said.
"Am I happy entirely? No I'm not, there is plenty of room for improvement."
The Warriors finished with 13 errors and a 72 per cent completion rate.
RTS leads from the front in captaincy debut
Fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck enjoyed a strong start to life as Warriors skipper, leading the club to victory with a crucial play late in the match.
Along with laying on the assist for Solomone Kata's try in the 33rd minute, Tuivasa-Sheck enjoyed a fine game where his provisional stats showed 20 carries for 243 metres and a key line break, which led to the match-winning try.
With his side camped on their own line and facing a two-point deficit, Tuivasa-Sheck scooped up a kick and evaded the Newcastle chasers to run 50 metres, with the Warriors forcing a dropout at the end of the play and then scoring via Ryan Hoffman.
"[Roger] came up with a wonderful play at the back end of the game to pick the ball up loose off the try-line and scoot through there," Kearney said.
"That was the moment where it could have defined if we came away with the two points or not."
Bitter blow for Phythian
Newcastle fullback Dylan Phythian's season was just 49 minutes old when he suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
The 21-year-old landed awkwardly after jumping to take a bomb early in the second half, and coach Nathan Brown confirmed post-match that initial indications suggested it was an ACL injury.
Prop Josh Starling said the news hit the playing group hard post-match.
"Dylan is really disappointed, he had a massive pre-season and we are all gutted for him," Starling told NRL.com.
"He is one of the real good guys… hopefully it's not as bad as we think, but unfortunately we think it's a bad one."
Fusitu'a bites Knights again
By half-time in Auckland David Fusitu'a had scored seven tries in his last 120 minutes of football against the Newcastle Knights, with his first-half hat-trick adding to a four-try haul picked up in Round 14 last year.
His remarkable strike rate against Newcastle goes back even further, with a double in Round 23 of the 2014 season meaning the 22-year-old has now scored nine times in his last three games against Newcastle.
While both Fusitu'a and coach Kearney did their best to downplay the hat-trick, winger Ken Maumalo spoke of Fusitu'a's "freakish" ability.
"That guy, you can't stop him near the line," Maumalo said.
"All the boys did some hard work and credit to 'Fus' that he was able to finish it off and score three tries."
Ball security Newcastle's downfall
Although the match finished with both sides having committed 13 errors, Knights coach Nathan Brown said it was the main reason his side fell short on the scoreboard.
In particular, Newcastle will rue a pair of handling errors in the first half, which came while they were inside the attacking 20 and led to two Warriors tries at the other end.
"We had a 15-minute period there [before half-time] where we were really poor and just handed possession to them," Brown said.
"I just didn't think in that first half we made them earn the right to be where they were.
"We turned the ball over meekly. We were only completing at 50 per cent and when you are at 50 per cent against Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] and [Shaun] Johnson, they are very talented players and they hurt us."
Despite finishing last in 2016, Newcastle were ranked equal-fifth for the least handling errors in the competition.