The Warriors are back into second on the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder, defeating the Wentworthville Magpies 26-16 after a relatively slow start at Mt Smart Stadium.
After trailing 10-6 at half-time, the Warriors went on with the job in the second period thanks in part to the fine work of hooker Manaia Cherrington. Fullback Honeti Tuha and experienced second-rower Frank Pritchard were among the best for the Magpies.
The withdrawal of Kieran foran from the Warriors' NRL side ensured a shuffle to the club's Intrust Super Premiership NSW spine, with Zac Santo and Sam Cook partnering in the halves and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad shifting to fullback. The Magpies were relatively unchanged, but enjoyed the services of returning NRL veterans Pritchard and David Gower.
It was a non-stop, error-free opening five minutes of play with the sides appearing to be evenly-poised, but a kick regathered by Scott Schulte soon brought points for the Magpies. The winger did well to get the ball away, offloading to his right, but a deflection from a defender sent it the opposite direction and into Pritchard's hands to stroll over. Davis easily converted from in front.
Wentworthville failed to cleanly take the ensuing restart and gifted the Warriors a chance, building pressure nicely with two forced dropouts from Cherrington. They failed to crack the Magpies' defence, however, in a relief for the visitors.
The next time the Warriors got down the Magpies' end they made no mistake, thanks again to some fine work from Cherrington. The dummy-half summed up the defence to send Daniel Palavi crashing in, twisting to plant the ball down. Junior Pauga's conversion tied the scores up after the opening quarter of the game.
The home side looked to have hit the lead when Toafofoa Sipley extended his arm to score, but a correctly-ruled double-movement prevented the Warriors' second. Bureta Faraimo was then narrowly denied a try by Schulte, before Sipley again went close - this time coming undone with a knock-on.
It was a back-and-forth encounter but the Magpies would eventually make their opposition pay for their missed opportunities, with Tuha slicing through in a fine try late in the half. While the conversion missed, it gave the Magpies a four-point lead - and despite a last-ditch effort from Santo on the siren, the Warriors would head into the sheds trailing 10-6.
An early penalty - and Cherrington's ensuing quick tap - got the Warriors immediately on the front foot in the second half, with points coming to even up the scores. Sipley showed his strength in stepping of the right foot to barrel into three Magpies defenders, scoring a well-deserved try. The relatively simple conversion attempt was waved away to leave scores at 10-10.
The Magpies were going to need to work on their discipline as they continued to invite the Warriors into their own end. Sure enough, the home side capitalised again to hit the lead for the first time, this time through Ofahiki Ogden off a good short ball from Cook. With the conversion from Pauga they led 16-10.
Pritchard looked the most likely for Wentworthville, running hard and even coming close to chasing down a Troy Dargan grubber to score. Ultimately it would be back-to-back repeat sets forced by Dargan, but a Pritchard error brought the side undone in good field position.
The game swung the other way with the bulk of possession soon sitting in the Warriors' favour; Cherrington did well to force another two dropouts with a good short kicking game. In their third consecutive set Charlie Gubb broke through a gap to score, with Pauga converting for a more comfortable 12-point advantage.
The game was not over when the Magpies earned a scrum in the final 10 minutes, but some bruising, enthusiastic defence from the Warriors forced Davis into touch immediately. The Warriors enjoyed a scrum of their own and through some fantastic play from Junior Pauga on the blind side, scored to seal the win. Pauga offloaded to Matt Allwood, who evaded Tuha and got across the line, before Pauga's conversion attempt was waved away.
It was too little, too late for the Magpies but they saved the most spectacular four-pointer for the final two minutes; Tuha's grubber looked certain to trail dead until George Jennings managed to get to it and force it down inside the in-goal area. With an impressive conversion it left scores at 26-16, which would remain until the game's conclusion.
The win returns the Warriors to second place and keeps the minor premiership a slight possibility; they will take on the Roos next Saturday in a mouth-watering match which could determine that title. The Magpies, meanwhile, now find themselves one point outside of the top eight, set to face off with the eighth-placed Knights in an all-important Round 24 clash.
Warriors 26 (D Palavi, T Sipley, O Ogden, C Gubb, M Allwood tries; J Pauga 3 goals) def Wentworthville Magpies 10 (F Pritchard, H Tuha, G Jennings tries; N Davis 2 goals)