Knights win to start NRL era under O'Brien

Pamela Whaley
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NRL KNIGHTS WARRIORS

All smiles in Newcastle after the Knights scored a 20-0 opening round win over the Warriors

Newcastle began a new era with a 20-0 win over the Warriors on Saturday, the first time they have kept a team scoreless in six NRL seasons.

Over the pre-season the Knights had boasted improved defensive resilience under new coach Adam O'Brien and it was on show at McDonald Jones Stadium against the hapless Kiwi outfit.

Not since 2014 when the Knights beat Cronulla 30-0 in round four have the Knights produced such an effective defensive performance.

"I wasn't aware of that, that's great for these guys," O'Brien said when told of the stat.

"This club has been built on and had such a rich and proud history, it's a good tip of the cap to this group that they can hang on to set some good standards.

"It is only one game but we only had to play one game today, so I think they'll be overjoyed when I let them know that stat."

With O'Brien's new system, the Knights kept the Warriors to just 993 running metres from 46 per cent of the possession.

In comparison, the home side made 1376 metres with 54 per cent of the ball.

Not helping the Warriors was a lack of discipline as they gave away 13 penalties and had half Chanel Harris-Tavita sin-binned midway through he first half for repeated infringements.

And while the defence was a highlight, the Knights showed moments of brilliance in attack in miserable conditions.

In a sight that is sure to stir Knights fans, playmakers Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga combined beautifully for a kick and chase try in the 55th minute.

It polished off the earlier efforts of Daniel Saifiti and Edrick Lee who also scored tries in front of a crowd of 10,239.

"I'm so grateful, I don't know the exact figure of the crowd but to every single person that was out there, there's plenty of reasons not to go to the footy in terms of the coronavirus and even the weather and it just shows what sort of town and community region this is," O'Brien said.

Late in the match the Warriors made the first successful captain's challenge of the NRL season.

Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck challenged what was originally ruled a knock on by the Warriors, and it was overturned when the Bunker revealed Knights prop Tim Glasby touched the football first.

However, it was in vain as the Warriors struggled make any metres out of their own end against the surging Knights defence.

It was a horrible end to round one for the Warriors with news emerging during the game they will need to be quarantined for 14 days if they are to return to New Zealand after 10pm on Sunday.