The Warriors have bounced back from a scrappy Round 11 win with a good victory in Round 12, defeating the North Sydney Bears 18-10 at Mt Smart Stadium. Having convincingly defeated the Bears on their turf four weeks ago, the Warriors were impressive yet again - but had to contend with a fast finish from their opposition in Auckland.
Halfback and captain Mason Lino was in form as per usual, while Toafofoa Sipley came up with two vital runs for the Warriors. While all 17 of the Bears were willing in attack and defence, a number of errors at key moments made life difficult for Ben Gardiner's men.
Rocked by the immediate departure of Tui Lolohea, who signed with the Wests Tigers in the lead-up, the Warriors shifted usual no.9 Sam Cook to fullback and the talented Jazz Tevaga filled the hooking role. The Bears featured a new-look forward pack with Clayton Williams, David Tyrell and Patrice Siolo all coming into the starting side.
A late hit on Eli Levido gifted the North Sydney side an attacking set early, but they failed to come up with points from their first opportunity - before helping the Warriors back upfield due to a penalty. From there, the second-placed hosts made no mistake as Mason Lino put in a grubber for Junior Pauga, who outpaced Latrell Schaumkel to score the opening try. Lino then nailed the conversion and it was 6-0 in favour of the hosts.
Tevaga looked to dive from dummy-half soon after to compound the Bears' woes, but a Charlie Gubb penalty denied the hooker the four points. It would be another 15 minutes until more points came, thanks to a destructive running from Toafofoa Sipley. The interchange forward took the ball with plenty to do but carried four Bears defenders to score a fantastic try, with another successful conversion giving the side a 12-0 advantage.
The Warriors kept coming and while they were unable to extend their lead further in the first half, they were on top in what was a defensively strong game of Rugby League. Enjoying a 60-40 share of possession, completing at 80 per cent and missing just five tackles in the first period, the New Zealand team was looking very impressive heading into the sheds.
Early in the second half, it was once again a hard run from Sipley which would help the Warriors back onto the scoreboard. Following his hit-up, Ofahiki Ogden rammed into the defensive line and managed to score the Warriors' third of the day next to the posts; an easy conversion attempt was then successful from Lino as they got out to an 18-0 lead.
There appeared to be a spring in the step of the Bears outfit and while handling errors at key moments continued to haunt them, eventually they would get on the board via Abbas Miski. When Luke Kelly set up a nice play down the right-hand side, Miski came up on the inside of Thomas Freebairn to score, with the conversion taking scores to 18-6 with 15 minutes remaining.
The Bears maintained hope of a comeback and were certainly on top in the late stages - an opportunity they made the most of via Chad O'Donnell. The interchange forward burst through the Warriors' line to score in the North-Eastern corner, giving North Sydney a fighting chance of getting within a converted try of their opposition. Levido's conversion attempt, however, sailed well wide of the posts and scores remained 18-10.
At the conclusion of an impressive fightback, the Warriors still emerged victorious 18-10 and thanks to a narrow Wyong Roos victory across the Tasman, remain in second position on the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder.
Warriors 18 (J Pauga, T Sipley, O Ogden tries; M Lino 3 goals) def North Sydney Bears 10 (A Miski, C O’Donnell tries; E Levido goal)