Sun 5 March 2017
Mt Smart Stadium - Crowd: 13712

Johnson magic leads Warriors over the Knights

Some sublime skill from Shaun Johnson and a David Fusitua hat-trick has helped the New Zealand Warriors put away a gallant Newcastle Knights team 24-20 in front of 13,712 fans at Mt Smart stadium.

The sun shone brought in the Auckland sky as both teams brought out their attacking game to start the season. Warriors dominated the early exchanges through a series of dropouts but the Knights held firm and posted the first points. 

Peter Mata'utia rose highest from a Brock Lamb bomb, out jumping Tuimoala Lolohea to touch down. Hodkinson added the conversion and 21st minute penalty goal to make it a surprise 8-nil lead for last year's wooden spooners. 

Knights buoyed by their early points started to throw the ball around with some abandon which led to a few errors. The Warriors pounced on these in quick succession as Shaun Johnson hit David Fusitua in stride before it was the other centre Solomone Kata who got into the act to make it 10-8 home side. 

Warriors were in full pomp for the rest of the half, as Shaun Johnson directed traffic as they regularly made 60+ metres on sets. Some acrobatics from Lolohea gave the Warriors their third from a Johnson kick, which the winger pushed back for Fusitua's second. 

Fusitua bagged four tries last time these two sides met in 2016, and completed a first half hat-trick right before the break. Johnson once again strode through the line before an audacious flick pass to the centre for 20-8 at the break. 

The Knights of 2016 may have wilted after such an onslaught but the experience gained in first grade helped them here. Boom rookie Nathan Ross scored a quickfire double alongside a rare Jack Stockwell four pointer gave the visitors back the lead despite Trent Hodkinson's circus trick of hitting both posts at 22-20. 

Both these sides had some mental fragility last season but the Warriors stayed resolute under the Knights fire as new captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck initiated a counter attack with his return which Ryan Hoffman finished off with a bustling run to secure the victory. 

The Warriors remain in Auckland this week, hosting the Storm on Friday night. Newcastle head home to host the Titans on Saturday.

3. Shaun Johnson

Pulled the strings for the Warriors today. Got his running game going and provided 2 assists.

2. David Fusitua

3 tries for the centre.

1. Nathan Ross

inspired the comeback with a double and huge runs.