Gilbert knee concern as Dolphins sunk by Warriors

Alex Mitchell |

Tom Gilbert suffered a knee injury in the Dolphins’ trial game against the Warriors.
Tom Gilbert suffered a knee injury in the Dolphins’ trial game against the Warriors.

Tom Gilbert may have been dealt a heartbreaking blow on the eve of the NRL season, after he was carried from the field with a knee injury in the Dolphins’ 34-22 trial game loss against the Warriors.

The 23-year-old went down without contact while trying to make a tackle on Warriors centre Rocco Berry at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

Gilbert’s knee twisted and he could be seen screaming in pain as he fell to the ground, before being helped off the field by two medical team members.

A lengthy spell out would be a cruel blow for the Dolphins, but even more so for Gilbert – who missed more than half of the 2023 season after a shoulder injury sustained in State of Origin required surgery.

He didn’t start Saturday’s contest for the Dolphins and had made only one run before his injury.

Gilbert’s misfortune overshadowed an impressive statement from the Warriors, whose hulking forward pack looked to pick up where it left off last season with a dominant display.

Warriors NRL player Addin Fonua-Blake.
Addin Fonua-Blake was among the standouts in the Warriors’ first outing of the year. (Andrew Cornaga/AAP PHOTOS)

Captain Tohu Harris (87 metres), star prop Addin Fonua-Blake (153m) and enforcer Mitch Barnett (120m, one try) were among the standouts in their first outing of the year.

Beaten in last season’s preliminary final, the Warriors showed signs they could be even better in the new campaign, with off-season addition Kurt Capewell creating a try and fitting in seamlessly.

Fellow new arrival Roger Tuivasa-Sheck continued a strong return to the 13-player code after two seasons in rugby union, churning out 159m, six tackle busts and a try assist.

He started at left centre despite the absence of No.1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad through a hamstring injury, with Taine Tuaupiki (102m) looking dangerous at fullback.

Tuaupiki’s flashy footwork and strong back-up play troubled the Dolphins, with the 24-year-old expected to start the NRL season at No.1 with Nicoll-Klokstad out until at least round four.

Tuivasa-Sheck did have a run at fullback in the second half, offloading for centre Ali Leiataua to score two minutes from time.

Dolphins NRL player Tesi Niu.
Tesi Niu tries to make headway for the Dolphins in Auckland. (Andrew Cornaga/AAP PHOTOS)

The Dolphins found themselves in an 18-0 hole inside 28 minutes as the Warriors turned their stubborn defensive work into points at the other end.

Kodi Nikorima, who started at five-eighth for the Dolphins in place of first-team regular Isaiya Katoa, handed the Warriors their third try with a wayward pass that winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak paid back with interest.

But the visitors found some classy attacking moments in the second half.

Winger Jack Bostock flew high to ground a bomb, centre Tesi Niu showed strength to create a try for Herbie Farnworth and cult hero Valynce Te Whare crossed as the scores tightened late.