[Source: NRL News]
The Warriors’ 2023 magic carpet ride will carry them back across the Tasman for a preliminary showdown with the Broncos after they downed the Knights 40-10 at Go Media Stadium.
After finishing last season in 15th place the Warriors have produced a remarkable turnaround in 2023 to move to within one game of a first grand final appearance since 2011.
A mistake by Knights winger Greg Marzhew in the opening set of the game opened the door for Shaun Johnson to lay on a try for Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who left Bradman Best in his wake to make it 4-0.
Johnson then earned his team a repeat set with a pinpoint grubber and the Knights cracked for a second time when Addin Fonua-Blake powered over from close range and the lead was 10 for the home side.
Left winger Marcelo Montoya was next to hit the scoresheet when he finished off some slick passing from Te Maire Martin and Adam Pompey to dot down for his 10th try of the season. Pompey’s conversion made it 16-0.
The Knights then steadied and worked their way upfield where mistakes by Johnson and Montoya gave the visitors a chance to click into gear and Greg Marzhew crossed in the 26h minute for a much-needed try.
Having hung tough to trail by just 12 at the break the Knights needed just three minutes to strike first in the second term when Adam Clune put Dylan Lucas over and the margin was back to six points.
It took the Warriors just four minutes to answer the challenge when Wayde Egan schemed out of dummy half and found a surging Dylan Walker for the home side’s fourth try. Pompey added the extras from close range to make it 22-10.
The Warriors extended their lead on the hour mark when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak produced a miracle pass to find Rocco Berry and the centre carried three defenders over the line to grab a try that brought the house down in Auckland.
With 15 minutes to play the Warriors officially stamped their ticket to a preliminary final when Egan, Johnson and Nicoll-Klokstad combined perfectly to send Watene-Zelezniak over for his 22nd try of the season.
A slight concern for the Warriors when Egan left the field with 13 minutes to play after a heavy collision but nothing could take the gloss off the day for the Auckland faithful.
A late try to Bayley Sironen out of dummy half put the finishing touches on the emphatic 40-10 win.
Coach Andrew Webster took no risks with his main man Johnson, giving him a rest with six minutes to play as thoughts turned to a Suncorp Stadium blockbuster against Brisbane.