NRL: Warriors debutant Karl Lawton conquers Mt Smart demons in win over Wests Tigers

The utility scored two tries as his new team thumped the Wests Tigers.
The utility scored two tries as his new team thumped the Wests Tigers. Photo credit: Photosport

Replacement hooker Karl Lawton has put past Mt Smart demons behind him for a magical Warriors club debut in their 26-4 win over Wests Tigers on Saturday.

Lawton came on midway through the second-half, after Issac Luke dislocated his shoulder, and the 22-year-old didn't disappoint.

With the Warriors leading 16-4, the utility made an immediate impact, scoring a brace of tries and making many goal-line tackles to help stem any late Tigers comeback.

It was a great way to put to rest some haunting memories of the venue.

On July 2, 2016, Lawton made his NRL debut for the Gold Coast Titans against the Warriors at their Penrose fortress, but his day - and season - was cut short when he broke his leg in an awkward tackle from Luke and Bunty Afoa. 

Lawton also recalls suffering injuries when playing at Mt Smart for the Titans under-20 team.

But now he loves Auckland and can't wait to get more game time.

"It seems like every time I play here, I get injured," he said. "Thank God I got out there for once and didn't get injured - I'm pretty stoked with that.

"This is my home now for the next couple of years, so it's a big honour."

The Murwillumbah-born product was signed from the Titans on a two-year deal in March, just days before the start of the NRL season, after back-up Warriors hooker Nathaniel Roache underwent season-ending back surgery.

He has spent the early season playing with the Warriors reserve squad, but after some strong performances in the past month, coach Stephen Kearney thought he deserved a change in the first-grade team.

"I thought he did a wonderful job," Kearney said, after the match. "There was a time where we were down on the try-line, and they brought Esan Masters back on us in a drop play and Karl was there to stop him in his track.

Karl lawton scores his second try of the match.
Karl lawton scores his second try of the match. Photo credit: Photosport

"I've watched Esan closely over the last few weeks and it is not often he gets stopped close to the line.

"I thought that part of his game was good and he got an opportunity to capitalise with some guy's putting pressure on the defensive line through some quick play the balls, some good runs. He was in the right spot in the right time and he took his chances." 

Lawton found space 10 metres out and sliced through the weak Tigers defence to score his first try. Moments later, he caught the markers snoozing and muscled over from dummy half for his second.

"I count myself lucky, thanks to the boys," Lawton said. "The boys threw some good offloads and I just happened to be there at the right time.

"The second try was a quick play-the-ball from one of the boys and I just ducked over for a quick one."

The result sees the 7-2 Warriors match their winning total for all of last season and they now turn their attention to the Sydney Roosters next Saturday, at Mt Smart.

The Auckland-based outfit could be without three key players in Luke, Adam Blair and Shaun Johnson, but Kearny expects all three to recover in time, as his side look to eclipse their 2017 record, barely less than halfway through this current season.