August 18, 2014 12:36:38 UK
The Warriors’ late rally wasn’t enough to prevent defeat to Newcastle Knights, leaving coach Andrew McFadden admitting need to improve to claim a top-eight spot.
The Auckland side didn’t put a point on the board until six minutes before the break in their 28-22 loss to the Knights.
By that time, Newcastle had run in three tries with 18-year-old wing Sione Mata’utia scoring the first two of his career and later adding a third.
The visitors, fighting to earn their first finals berth since 2011, scored twice late-on as both David Fusitua and Manu Vatuvei completed doubles.
But it was too late for McFadden’s side, who were also made to pay for missing four of their five kicks at goal.
“It was an important game to consolidate our position on the ladder, but we let it go,” said the coach.
“We scored enough points, but conceded too many. If we want to be a top team, we just can’t do that.”
The Warriors, who are 1.91 to beat Sydney Roosters, knew Newcastle would be a tougher proposition than their 14th place on the ladder indicated, as the home side had won five of their previous seven.
McFadden said: “We were quite optimistic at halftime that if we knuckled down, were patient with the football and fixed up our discipline we could get away with a win, but it was probably a little bit more of the same in the second half.”
The positive for the Warriors, who are 21.00 to win the NRL grand final, was the return of halfback Shaun Johnson after a persistent groin injury.
But they gave the Knights too much of a head start, as Mata’utia went over in the 10th minute and added another six minutes after Joseph Leilua had dotted down.
Fusitua and Vatuvei got the Warriors back into the contest with two tries in a four-minute spell just before the interval, with Nathan Friend scoring their third just after the restart.
Mata’utia completed his treble on 53 minutes and his brother Chanel scored the Knights’ fifth try with 15 minutes to go, Kurt Gidley helping seal the deal with four goals.
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