The Illawarra Cutters withstood a brave second-half comeback by the New Zealand Warriors to record a 36-22 victory at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
Cutters’ winger Tom Carr scored two tries in the win, while five-eighth Shaun Nona controlled the game well and kicked six from six.
The Cutters got first use of the ball and a strong surge by second-rower Jacob Host earned his side the first penalty of the game however solid Warriors defence held them out.
Both sides fought to gain the upper hand during the opening minutes, but neither side was showing signs of dominating the match.
In the 10th minute, Carr scooped up a wayward pass and showed a great turn of speed, racing 80 metres to open the scoring for his side. Nona made no mistake with the conversion and the Cutters led 6-0.
A wayward pass by the Warriors 40 metres out from their own line gave the home side a great opportunity to add further points and prop Upu Poching went very close to scoring his side's second try, but not only was he held up, he lost the ball in trying to play it.
Nona and halfback Drew Hutchinson were combining well as the half wore on and a neat grubber by Nona forced a Warriors drop out in the 17th minute, a great play that showed a lot of discipline.
From the ensuing set, Nona caught the defence napping and snuck over for a well-executed individual try. Nona converted his own try to open up a 12-0 lead for the hosts.
The Cutters scored their third try when a backline move saw centre Peter Mata'utia dive over in the left corner, the try converted by Nona to make it 18-0.
The Warriors hit back though winger Ken Maumalo but the Cutters had the final say of the half when Tyrone McCarthy strolled over after the Warriors fumbled a simple Cutters cross-field kick.
At halftime the Cutters enjoyed a comfortable 24-4 lead.
Sustained Cutters pressure early in the second half saw Blake Wallace score to the right of the posts in the 50th minute. Nona’s conversion made it 30-4.
The Warriors scored a much-needed try through lock John Palivi in the 56th minute and Hingano converted the try to make it 30-10.
Konrad Hurrell strolled over in the 58th minute to continue the Warriors’ second-half resurgence; the Cutters’ defence rushed up to shut him down, but he proved too strong and brushed off several defenders to touch down. Hingano converted from in front to make it 30-16
In the 62nd minute, Warriors centre Matthew Allwood crossed out wide to continue the visitors’ momentum and Hingano made no mistake with the conversion to make it 30-22.
Great Cutters defence late in the game repelled the Warriors’ attack and kept their noses in front, despite conceding the last 16 points.
The crowd was getting vocal in an effort to get the home side across the line and it worked wonders as Tom Carr dived over for his second try of the match. Nona made it a perfect six goals from six attempts to make it 36-22 with just six minutes left.
A Warriors mistake coming out of their own end gave the home side the perfect opportunity to pile on the points with just over five minutes remaining, however they dropped the ball on the second tackle to relieve the pressure, and then conceded a penalty.
The Warriors desperately ran the ball on the last play of the ensuing set, but great Cutters defence held up Marata Niukore and the Cutters survived.
Not for the first time, the Warriors spilled a simple catch and the Cutters went on the attack, but it wasn't to be with a dropped ball over the line denying the home side but they had done enough to earn the two points in an entertaining start to the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership season.