The Warriors proved the importance of having a good goal-kicker at QBE Stadium today, pipping the Newtown Jets 20-18 despite being outscored four tries to three.
The home side were looking to climb up the Intrust Super Premiership with another win, however they'd have to do it on unfamiliar territory at the new venue, also known as North Harbour Stadium. The Warriors welcomed back winger Lewis Soosemea from a one-week suspension, while another notable inclusion was prop James Gavet, making his first appearance in six weeks after a hamstring injury.
Match: Warriors v Jets
Round 8 -
Venue: North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
Newtown were four places higher than the Warriors on the table - but it was only by virtue of points difference. However, their confidence would have been high off the back of a stunning come-from-behind win against the Bulldogs last weekend. The Jets also had a good addition on the wing, as Tongan international Sosaia Feki pulled on the royal blue jumper for the first time this season.
Unfortunately, Auckland turned on an abysmal day for the game. Conditions were more suited to water polo than Rugby League as a heavy downpour swept the city, and it was evident that it was going to be a war of attrition before the ball had even been kicked off.
It didn't take long for the Jets to win the first battle, forcing a Warriors handling error on the first set. A subsequent penalty gave the visitors good field position, leading to Aaron Gray crossing on the right edge. Another string of penalties meant the Warriors were backed up against their line nine minutes later, and again Gray scored. This time he latched onto a kick through that held up in the wet in-goal, and the Jets took a two-score lead.
Even though neither try was converted, the Warriors needed to hit back. It took them until the 18th minute to finally gain some red zone ascendency, and big prop Tevita Satae crashed over from short range next to the posts.
It stirred the home side into action, and Zac Santo benefitted from the conditions in the 24th minute. Hayze Perham had put in a kick that held up suddenly in a puddle, meaning that the Jets defenders over-ran the ball and the Warriors winger was gifted the easiest try of his career. Chanel Harris-Tavita nailed the difficult conversion, despite having to kick it out of a pool that had formed along the touchline.
The Warriors dominated the remainder of the half, and added a very slick try in the 36th minute. Joe Vuna, who had made his NRL debut midweek, was on the end of some perfectly-timed passes to score 10 metres to the right of the posts. This made the score 18-8 as the teams sprinted off the field to find some shelter from the rain at half-time.
The Jets had the strong northerly wind at their backs in the second half, and dominated possession and territory. They made it count with a try to Sione Katoa in the 57th minute. The ball again sat up short in the wet off a seemingly innocuous kick, giving the winger an untouched run into the corner from 15 metres out.
Eight minutes later Anthony Moraitis bashed his way over next to the posts. Kyle Flanagan finally found his kicking boots, landing the conversion to make the scores level at 18-all.
It set up a tense last 10 minutes, however the home side was able to not only conquer their opposition, but the terrible conditions as well.
Four minutes from time, the Jets made a crucial error out in front of their own posts. A dangerous tackle on Vuna gave Harris-Tavita a chance to break the deadlock, and the five-eighth held his nerve into the stiff breeze. The ball sailed through the sticks to give the Warriors a thrilling win.
They now face a tough assignment in Canberra next weekend against Mounties, while Newtown head back to Henson Park to face North Sydney in the first leg of the 2018 Frank Hyde Shield.
Warriors 20 (T Satae, Z Santo, J Vuna tries; C Harris-Tavita 4 goals) def Newtown Jets 18 (A Gray 2, S Katoa, A Moraitis tries; K Flanagan goal)