As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad made a wonderful return to the Warriors on Friday night, scoring and saving tries in the 20-12 win over the Knights in Wellington.
After spending the last four years at the Raiders, the fullback was outstanding in his team’s gritty win that showed new coach Andrew Webster has already stamped his mark at the club.
The 27-year-old was class at the back and made amends for an early error to put in a performance that was up there with the ones Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had in the No 1 jersey a couple of years ago.
This was the start of a new era for the Warriors, Webster wanted to toughen them up and get rid of the ‘same old Warriors’ mentality when it came to not being able to grind out wins.
The squad had been given an impressive overhaul, with experienced players brought in and going up against a side like the Knights, who aren’t expected to feature in the top eight this season, they were perfect opposition.
But there were 16 other teams feeling good about themselves before they played their first game this weekend and Warriors’ optimism didn’t last long.
Nicoll-Klokstad turned over the ball in the opening minute and Lachlan Fitzgibbon then brushed through a tackle by Shaun Johnson to score the opening try.
It was a scrappy first half, played in front of 16,676 spectators, with both teams making errors and struggling to get try scoring opportunities.
But with 15 minutes of the period to Mitch Barnett made a great break up the middle, Johnson threw a peach of a pass out wide to Ed Kosi, who was a late replacement for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, and scored in the corner.
A few minutes later the Warriors hit the lead with Bunty Afoa charging in after taking a ball from Wayde Egan at dummy half.
The Knights had back to back sets close to the Warriors’ line early in the second half and when the ball was moved to the left edge Hymel Hunt found himself with all the space he needed to score.
In the 51st minute the Warriors scored the best try of the game, with Brayden Wiliame finding some space to make a long run, then popping a pass to Nicoll-Klokstad, who still had plenty of ground to cover before reaching the try line.
Phoenix Crossland was sin binned in the 57th minute for not being square at the marker as the Warriors were under the Knights’ posts and from the next play Egan had his head slammed in a tackle and needed to go off for a HIA.
It was the fourth penalty in a row the Knights had given away inside their 10m line but they didn’t concede any points from it as on the last tackle Te Maire Martin grubbered the ball straight to Jackson Hastings.
It was then the Knights’ turn to have all the pressure and there was some outstanding goal line defence from Nicoll-Klokstad and Kosi to keep them out.
The Warriors sealed the game when Egan took on the defence from a ruck a few metres from the line and went over.