Herald on Sunday

Warriors in late, late Knightmare loss

- Michael Burgess

The Warriors’ NRL finals hopes continue to dive, after a costly loss in Newcastle yesterday.

As in the earlier clash with the Knights this season, the Warriors were sunk by a late try, with Brodie Jones crossing in the corner in the 75th minute.

This defeat will be extremely tough to take. They had plenty of chances, but couldn’t make anything count, with their only try coming from a Knights fumble.

It’s the Warriors third straight loss, and they have won only one of their past six matches.

As has happened so many times in 2021, the margins were fine, but the game was lost in the first half. The Warriors couldn’t take advantage of a gale behind them, nor the Knights being down to 12 men, and the 6-4 margin at the break was never likely to be enough.

The halves struggled to provide direction, amid a general lack of fluidity. The powerful charges of new Tigers wing Ken Maumalo were also missed, in conditions that would have been perfect for him.

Teen fullback Reece Walsh had a mixed game.

Conditions were awful. A blustery wind roared down the field, and the rain was near horizontal for most of the match.

All eyes were on Walsh early. The No 1 had a tricky take from the kickoff, as the ball blew back towards the Knights, then dropped the ball cold from an attacking scrum.

But the 18-year-old soon provided an early highlight reel. He made a gutsy catch, then beat four defenders on a 70m run, before being caught just short of the tryline.

The Warriors opened the scoring in the 24th minute, probably against the run of play, after Euan Aitken scooped up a loose ball from a Knights error, sprinting from inside his own 20m line.

But as has happened many times this season, the Warriors couldn’t build on it. The team made a mess of the kickoff, conceding a line dropout in a classic coach killer moment. The Knights forced a repeat set, before Lachlan Fitzgibbon powered past Eli Katoa from close range.

But the home team lost their try scorer in the 33rd minute, binned after he caught Kodi Nikorima high. That opened the door for some late opportunit­ies, but the Warriors could not profit. The final two minutes of the half were particular­ly painful as they couldn’t engineer anything from consecutiv­e sets on the Newcastle line.

A Jake Clifford penalty levelled the scores, after Walsh spilled a towering Mitchell Pearce bomb. The Warriors were still guilty of not playing to the conditions — with low percentage plays in their own half and flat passes — and only a delightful Walsh goal line dropout prevented a repeat set.

There were further opportunit­ies and Walsh shanked a field goal attempt. A bust through the ruck set the Knights for their last raid.

Knights 10 (Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Brodie Jones try; Jake Clifford pen) Warriors 6 (Euan Aitken try; Reece Walsh con). HT: 4-6.

 ?? Photo / Photosport ?? Reece Walsh reacts to the loss to the Knights yesterday.
Photo / Photosport Reece Walsh reacts to the loss to the Knights yesterday.

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