NRL 2019: Stephen Kearney has concerns about Warriors' confidence after Knights defeat

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney admits his side are severely lacking confidence, after a dismal display against the Newcastle Knights in Auckland.

The Warriors slumped to their fourth-straight defeat, with a 36-18 hammering against the Knights - Newcastle's first win at Mt Smart Stadium since 2012.

Blake Green and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had little impact in their injury comebacks, not helped by a lack of team physicality, which Kearney lamented.

From the first hit-up of the game, the Warriors obviously weren't up for the challenge, as Newcastle dominated the physical battle on both attack and defence.

Kearney admits the losing streak - their worst since 2017 - was taking a toll on his side, who now have a 2-6 record this season.

"A team came here with a lot more intention, a lot more purpose, and the old story - they wanted it a bit more than we did," Kearney said.

"We came up short, which was disappointing, after working really hard last week [against Melbourne] and getting a couple back tonight in terms of injuries.

"I am [worried about confidence], but there's only one way to find your confidence and that's to work your way through it. That's the only way I know and that's my message to the boys tonight.

"I thought we got dealt a blow tonight in that a team came here and beat us up a bit. The only way we can get out of it is by working our way out of it."

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney.
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. Photo credit: Photosport

The sides went blow-for-blow in the first 50 minutes, as Ken Maumalo's second try early in the second half levelled the score at 18-18.

But the Warriors switched off, and Newcastle scored the final three tries to make it a one-sided contest in front of 14,975 fans.

A key tactic was Mitchell Pearce's superb kicking game, where he regularly booted the ball out on the final play or launched contestable bombs, rather than letting fullback Tuivasa-Sheck run the ball back.

The captain ran for just 96m, down from his season average of 194m in the six games he has played.    

Knights coach Nathan Brown felt his side executed their gameplan to perfection and that is a concern for Kearney, who must work with his coaching staff to figure out a way to get Tuivasa-Sheck more involved.

"If teams are going to take that approach, we have to have a plan for it - that's our job as coaches to find a way around it.

"The pressure that they were putting on us, just by strangling [us] really, when we were coming out of the backfield, took its toll.

"It can be quite challenging when you start sets off the back foot."

The Warriors are already in must-win mode or their season will be over quickly.

New Warriors signing Kodi Nikorima.
New Warriors signing Kodi Nikorima. Photo credit: Photosport

Things don't get any easier next week, when they face the St George Illawarra Dragons in Brisbane, part of NRL's 'Magic Round', where all 16 teams play at Suncorp Stadium over the weekend.

New halfback Kodi Nikorima will be available for that match, but Kerney doesn't want to put the 25-year-old under too much pressure.

"I don't think Kodi was going to help us [against Newcastle]," Kearney said.

"We're going to need to fix that part of it [physicality] and move forward from there. Kodi can obviously be an asset on the back of that."

The Warriors beat the Dragons twice last season, but the Dragons have won 21 of the 28 meetings between the two sides.

Newshub.

Join us at 7:30pm Saturday from live updates of the Warriors clash against the Dragons

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz