They managed to overcome a significant mental hurdle to reach Week 2 of the finals – now it’s time for the Warriors to go all the way.
When the Warriors marched down the Mt Smart Stadium tunnel with the Penrith Panthers in Round 25, they did so knowing that their fifth-place finish was already confirmed. The 80 minutes that followed were typical of a club not known for its consistency, with an early 12-point deficit turned into a 12-point lead and back into a 12-point deficit by full-time. It not only meant that the Warriors had continued their disastrous recent run of second half performances, but that they would come up against the same team at the same venue a week later.
In an Elimination Final yesterday, the home side were dominant early and looked to have booked a place in the Semi Finals, but tries either side of half-time for the Panthers brought them back to 14-all. As the rain began to poor, the Warriors were dangerously close to a repeat of the week before and were at risk of losing their heads – but this time, centre Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad said, the team managed to close out a deserved victory.
“We’ve had a lot of losses in the last few months, but there’s a lot of belief in this group and we just touched on it before the game,” Nicoll-Klokstad told NSWRL.com.au. “It sort of showed in that first half and we took it into the back end of that second half too.
“Last week they come over and they got us in that second half, so it was really good that we were able to close it up this time.”
Leading into yesterday’s final, the Warriors’ average of 5.5 points in the second half of their past eight games was not indicative of their ladder position. They only narrowly exceeded that with seven yesterday, but Nicoll-Klokstad believes the team will be better for it next week.
“Last week we got ourselves into a position that we wanted to be in and I think all the stuff that went wrong for us is stuff that we can work on ourselves,” the 21-year-old explained. “The fact that we were able to close out that game… at the beginning of the year we might not have been able to do that.
“Hopefully we can take that momentum into next week.”
It was a rare home final for the Warriors, but the team will not return to Mt Smart Stadium in 2016; they now face the task of taking down Newtown at Pepper Stadium for a place in the Preliminary Finals.
The Jets’ form has been indifferent of late, but few expected the 30-12 rout at the hands of Mounties on Saturday. Having demolished the Warriors 38-6 in the teams’ last meeting at Henson Park, however, Stacey Jones’ men will need to be on top of their game to sneak into the final four.
Witness history this September at the 2016 NSWRL Grand Final Day. On Sunday, 25 September the Intrust Super Premiership NSW decider, along with the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield Grand Finals, take place at Pirtek Stadium, with tickets just $10 for adults and kids under 12 free. Click here to secure your seat.