Knights 28 Warriors 22
Defence: The Warriors get a rare hand on Newcastle's Sione Mata'utia, who scored three tries in yesterday's tight encounter. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
Teenage tyro Sione Mata'utia scored a sensational hat-trick as the Newcastle Knights ambushed the Warriors 28-22 at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Appearing in only his fourth NRL game, the 18-year-old utility back scored his maiden try in the top grade in the 10th minute and followed up with two more to underline his reputation as one of the game's rising stars.
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Mata'utia(3), Leilua, Mata'utia||Tries||5||Tries||5||Players||Fusitua(2), Vatuvei(2), Friend|
|Players||Gidley 2/5 (40%)||Conversions||2||Conversions||1||Players||Townsend 1/5 (20%)|
|Players||Gidley 2/2 (100%)||Penalty goals||2||Penalty goals||0||Players|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||0||Players|
The 2013 Australian Schoolboys representative, who played fullback in his previous three games, was a late inclusion on the left wing yesterday when Akuila Uate (knee) was ruled out.
It was a big weekend for the Mata'utia family, with Sione's brother Chanel also scoring for the Knights yesterday, after eldest sibling Peter picked up a try for St George Illawarra in their win against Canberra on Saturday.
The result left the Knights in 14th position and denied the Warriors a chance to improve from eighth to fifth, with three rounds to play.
The Knights led 14-0 midway through the first half but the visitors narrowed the deficit with two tries in six minutes before the break.
Chasing their third successive win on home soil, after last-gasp boilovers against the Roosters and Melbourne, Newcastle opened the scoring in the 10th minute when playmaker Jarrod Mullen chip-kicked to the left edge and Sione Mata'utia swooped in for his first.
Ten minutes later, the Knights scored on almost the same patch of turf when centre Joey Leilua crashed over for his ninth try this year.
Mata'utia showed breathtaking pace in the 26th minute when, after a blindside scrum play deep in Newcastle's territory, he raced 85 metres to score without a hand being laid on him.
Hindered by errors, penalties and a tendency to play too laterally, the Warriors gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the 34th minute when winger David Fusitu'a launched himself and scored a spectacular one-handed try in the corner.
Four minutes later, they were right back in the contest when Manu Vatuvei scored on the opposite flank, after the video referee approved a dropped ball from centre Ngani Laumape that contained a hint of a knock-on.
Chad Townsend's conversion narrowed the difference to 14-10.
It was all square at 14-apiece just two minutes after the resumption, when Warriors bench hooker Nathan Friend made it look too easy with a try from dummy-half.
Just as it seemed the Knights were fading, Sione Mata'utia put them back in the lead with a remarkable one-handed touchdown in the corner, despite the efforts of three defenders.
Knights skipper Kurt Gidley converted from the sideline to make it 20-14, then 11 minutes later added a penalty goal to give his team an eight-point buffer.
Mata'utia's brother Chanel then scored the second try of his four-game NRL career with a 20-metre dash.
Leading 26-14 with 15 minutes to play, the Knights endured a white-knuckle finish after conceding late tries to Fusitu'a and Vatuvei left them clinging to a six-point lead for the final four minutes.
Adding to the Warriors' woes, skipper Simon Mannering was reported for a high tackle on Knights centre Dane Gagai in the opening minutes.