Knights slay Warriors in Newcastle
Newcastle have secured back-to-back Telstra Premiership victories for the first time since 2015 with a comprehensive 26-10 victory over the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Knights backed up from last week's hard-fought victory against St George Illawarra to lead the Warriors for the entire contest on the back of a strong display from five-eighth Brock Lamb.
A four-pointer from Lamb with eight minutes remaining secured the win after the Knights shot out of the blocks to lead 12-0 early, before taking a 16-4 advantage into the break.
It proved a lethargic performance from the Warriors who showed no signs of improvement after last week's loss to the Sharks.
Leading by two converted tries at the break, the Knights lost Nathan Ross nine minutes into the second half after he collected an accidental knee into his back after retrieving a high kick.
Warriors utility Nathaniel Roache was injected into the game in the second half and created some spark for the visitors, but a final ball from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to David Fusitua was called back for a forward pass.
Fusitua was next to leave the field for a Head Injury Assessment after a collision with Knights prop Daniel Saifiti that brought Issac Luke back on and sent Roache out to the wing.
Two penalties inside three minutes sent the Warriors on the attack but the momentum was short-lived as Kieran Foran's pass to Bunty Afoa went to ground.
After a quiet opening stint, Luke's first impact back from a spell was a costly one with an error in the play-the-ball.
Knights prop Daniel Saifiti backed up a strong effort against the Dragons with a 153-metre effort, while front-row partner King was also strong up front against a more sizeable opposition.
Lamb's second season in the NRL has been a rollercoaster to say the least but he continues to show signs of improvement with each game he plays.
The Maitland junior peaked through a half-gap with a quarter of the game remaining before popping a short offload to Lachlan Fitzgibbon to race 35 metres and stretch the side's lead to 16.
A spiralling kick from Foran was allowed to bounce by Chanel Mata'utia and the Knights winger was then placed on report for tripping Mason Lino on the way to the tryline.
The Warriors took advantage of territory and jagged a four-pointer back when Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Ayshord kept the ball alive for Roache to go over for his first try in the Telstra Premiership.
Newcastle ensured no comeback was on the cards for the visitors when co-captain Sione Mata'utia busted through the line for front-rower Josh King to send Lamb over.
Earlier in the contest, disaster struck early for Newcastle when Ken Sio spilt the ball from the kick-off to offer the visitors a chance to attack in the first minute.
The early attacking raid from the Warriors was contained well by the home side, who were then gifted a penalty under pressure to march up field.
A late offload from Lamb allowed for Ross to break through the middle before being pulled down metres from the line.
Newcastle kept the ball alive on the last tackle with Lamb providing the ball for Barnett to stroll into a gap and over the line for the first try of his season.
Barnett's try-scoring tally in the Telstra Premiership was two to begin the game but doubled to four inside 10 minutes when the lock-forward shrugged past Luke and Sam Lisone to plant the ball down for his second.
Knights halfback Trent Hodkinson converted both tries to notch up his 600th point in the NRL.
Both sides were guilty of a series of errors and penalties midway through the opening half until the Warriors hit the board via winger Fusitua.
The 22-year-old ended a nine-game dry spell to finish off a backline movement from the visitors in the 25th minute.
Back-to-back penalties gifted the Knights two points from next to the posts to stretch the lead out to 10.
Another penalty – Newcastle's seventh of the half – allowed Nathan Brown's men to take another two points before the break and go on to grind out their fourth win of the season.
Newcastle Knights 26 (Barnett 2, Fitzgibbon, Lamb tries; Hodkinson 5 goals) def. Warriors 10 (Fusitua, Roache tries; Luke 1 goal) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Half-time: Knights 16-4. Crowd: 11,824.
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Brock Lamb, 2 points: Daniel Saifiti, 1 point: Lachlan Fitzgibbon.