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The Roar


RTS edges Ponga in five-star fullback shoot-out as Warriors nullify Knights despite serious Metcalf injury

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31st March, 2024
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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kalyn Ponga went head to head in a high-class fullback shoot-out in Auckland on Sunday but it was the Warriors veteran who had the last laugh with a 20-12 triumph to celebrate his first match in the No.1 jersey in three years.

Both Dally M Medal Medal winners were standouts for their side but Ponga’s Newcastle teammates let him down as they suffered their third loss in four starts for 2024.

The Warriors’ finals hopes are back on track after their second straight win has cancelled out the back-to-back losses they suffered to kick off the season but Newcastle’s form is a major concern for coach Adam O’Brien with only a 14-12 home win over a depleted Storm side earning them competition points thus far.

Five-eighth Luke Metcalf’s leg injury took the gloss off the Warriors’ win. He limped off after a tackle in the 10th minute and played no further part with club officials fearing he may have broken his leg.

The Warriors have Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad returning from injury next week against Souths so he could be an option with RTS staying at fullback while veteran playmaker Te Maire Martin or Chanel Harris-Tavita could also slot in alongside Shaun Johnson in the halves.

Tuivasa-Sheck ended up with 278 running metres and broke six tackles in a vintage performance while Ponga tallied two line breaks and another couple of assists.

Warriors coach Andrew Webster said he would be sticking with his stated preferred No.1 in CNK, but he did shower Tuivasa-Sheck with praise.


“He was really good and had glimpses of really good stuff,” Webster said.

“Rog looked like he’d learned plenty tonight, he feels the NRL is a different beast from when he left it, and he hasn’t done a lot of reps at fullback.

“I was proud … it’s such a cool thing to have a guy who’s played a lot of fullback in his career, and he’s nailing centre now and … then when you need him, he comes back in and he’s reliable.”

Harris-Tavita put in his best performance in his comeback campaign at the Warriors from a one-year sabbatical after subbing in for Metcalf.

The Warriors opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Johnson feigned to pass long and hit back-rower Jackson Ford on the burst.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 31: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak of the Warriors charges forward during the round four NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and Newcastle Knights at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, on March 31, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)


Harris-Tavita touched down a few minutes later to make it 12-0 when Wayde Egan scooted out of dummy-half to present him with a short trip to the stripe.

Newcastle halved the deficit four minutes from the break when Tyson Frizell crashed over out wide after collecting a Tyson Gamble grubber.

The Warriors regained the momentum soon after the second half restart when winger Marcelo Montoya climbed high to reel in a Harris-Tavita kick.

Newcastle didn’t throw in the towel and despite conceding a penalty goal, they cut the deficit to eight heading into the final five minutes when Bradman Best was the recipient of a clever Ponga kick behind the line.

They looked set to score almost immediately from the kick-off when Ponga released Enari Tuala into the backfield but Tuivasa-Sheck snuffed out the attacking raid.

The Knights surged into fifth place in the playoffs last season on the back of Ponga’s brilliance but with Jackson Hastings and Jack Cogger getting a couple of games each alongside Gamble in the halves, they have yet to come up with a combination that can get their attack firing.


O’Brien found plenty to like from what he considered an improved performance.

“Every metric that you look at – possession, field position – we had to contend with a fair bit, so I’m pretty content with our attitude,” he said.

“Last time we came here we probably didn’t have that and we withstood a very similar first half.

“There’s some stuff there we need to get better at, in particular our attack, but that will come, and there’s a lot to like about their performance with some personnel out.”

with AAP