The New Zealand Warriors have come home strongly to defeat the Newcastle Knights 38-18 in their first Mt Smart home game of the year, in front of over 19,000 fans.
Strangely for a Warriors home game, the opening salvo was fired by the visiting side, with Tyrone Roberts plucking a Jarrod Mullen kick out of the air to open the Knights' account for the afternoon and have them leading 6-0 early. It wasn't long though before man of the moment - and LeagueUnlimited.com's man of the match Simon Mannering got his side on the scoresheet in his 200th NRL game for the club.
The hosts backed this up with Sam Tomkins cleaning up the scraps of a Johnson cross-field bomb, pushing the Warriors to a 10-6 lead. The lead was extended again by a Manu Vatuvei try just short of the half-hour mark, before Newcastle calmly restored order and put Joey Leilua in out wide after 35 minutes. It was Mannering again just before halftime powering over for the hosts, bagging his double just before the break to ensure a ten-point buffer.
It was a second-half punctuated with a few too many errors, mostly from Newcastle, which allowed the Warriors to steam home. The Knights scored first in the second half, reducing the margin to just four after 54 minutes through a powerhouse try from Robbie Rochow, but that would be all for the visitors.
A messy try to Chad Townsend gave the home side some breathing space before late four-pointers to both Konrad Hurrell and a second for Manu Vatuvei meant the scoreline probably flattered the Warriors, but nevertheless got them the result they were after.
Next week the Warriors' assignment is the longest trip in the NRL - they're headed to nib Stadium in Perth to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Newcastle head home and will don their NSW Mining tribute jersey against the Wests Tigers on Sunday at Hunter Stadium.