NRL 2020: Tryless NZ Warriors limp to opening round loss to Newcastle Knights

Newcastle began a new era with a 20-0 win over the NZ 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.

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

By comparison, they made 1376 metres with 54 percent 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 the 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.

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

With 18 minutes to go, 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.

But that small success was in vain, as the Warriors struggled make any metres out of their own end against the surging Knights defence.

Warriors defence swarms on Knights
Warriors defence swarms on Knights. Photo credit: Photosport

The result was a horrible end to round one for the Warriors, with news emerging during the game that they would need to be quarantined for 14 days, if they returned to New Zealand after midnight Sunday.

The updated border restrictions from New Zealand put the remainder of the NRL season in doubt, with the Australian Rugby League Commission to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday afternoon.


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