NEW Zealand Warriors scraped home for a late 26-22 victory in Auckland against Newcastle Knights.
The Knights had taken the lead with 15 minutes remaining with the second of back-to-back tries to Nathan Ross.
But as the clock ticked down veteran Warriors backrower Ryan Hoffman slid across the tryline when tackled centimetres short for the winning try.
The Knights had been the first to score through Peter Mata’utia, but it was his mistake midway through the half, hesitating against Shaun Johnson, that paved the way for a try to Kiwi Four Nations threequarter David Fusitu’a.
The Warriors took the lead late in the firs half when Simon Mannering and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck combined to send Solomone Kata across the tryline.
Another Johnson bomb and a flick pass handed Fusitu’a two more for the Warriors to lead 20-8 at half-time.
Then came the Newcastle surge with a try to Jack Stockwell and the brace by Ross.
Sam Stone, the 19-year-old son of Huddersfield Giants coach Rick Stone, made his senior debut for Newcastle, just two years after his father, was sacked as the Knights’ first-grade mentor.
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); 2 Tuimoala Lolohea, 3 David Fusitu’a, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo; 6 Ata Hingano, 7 Shaun Johnson; 8 Albert Vete, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Charlie Gubb, 11 Bunty Afoa, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Simon Mannering. Subs: 15 Jacob Lillyman, 16 Sam Lisone, 17 Isaiah Papali’i (d), 18 Bodene Thompson.
Knights: 1 Dylan Phythian; 2 Ken Sio, 3 Dane Gagai, 4 Peter Mata’utia, 5 Nathan Ross; 6 Brock Lamb, 7 Trent Hodkinson (c); 8 Daniel Saifiti, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Josh Starling, 11 Sione Mata’utia, 12 Jamie Buhrer, 13 Mitch Barnett. Subs: 14 Luke Yates (d), 15 Jack Stockwell, 16 Sam Stone (d), 17 Jacob Saifiti.
Full coverage of the weekend’s NRL matches will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express.