A 16-point haul from five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita has guided the Warriors to a comfortable 37-24 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
The home side was coming off a big win last weekend against Blacktown, which had put them right in the middle of a very congested Intrust Super Premiership ladder. However they would have to contend the encounter without their influential skipper Mason Lino, with the in-form halfback given a richly-deserved call up to the NRL fixture between the two clubs on Friday night. Coach John Teina brought in Sam Cook to the halves to plug the gap that Lino left, and Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck got a start on the wing in place of the suspended Lewis Soosemea.
Match: Warriors v Dragons
Round 7 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
St George Illawarra were riding high after four wins in a row, however were playing a side that had recorded two victories against them last season. Like the Warriors, they had issues in the halves department, with their captain and halfback Darren Nicholls out due to injury. Tristan Sailor moved into five-eighth to partner with Jack Payne, and the team took to Mt Smart on a slightly damp but otherwise fine Auckland afternoon.
The Warriors go off to a dream start, as the Dragons' kick-off sailed dead on the full. A further ruck penalty piled pressure on the defence, leading to Tuivasa-Sheck opening the scoring in the fourth minute by diving over in the left-hand corner. Harris-Tavita nailed the sideline conversion, the first in what would be a perfect day with the boot.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when they conceded back-to-back sets off the kick-off. A determined set from the restart led to space opening up on the right-hand side of the park, and centre Joseph Vuna sliced through the right edge to score five metres in from touch. Harris-Tavita again added the tough kick, and the Dragons found themselves down 12-0 before they'd even had a turn with the football.
Second-rower Matiu Love-Henry got in on the act in the 13th minute, after the Warriors put together another excellent attacking set. His try was again converted and the onus was on the Dragons to front up or be on the end of a likely flogging.
They did so with a clever kick to the wing, which was caught and flicked on to a flying Patrick Herbert to dive over in the right-hand corner. Zac Lomax added the extras, and it led to period of dominance for the Dragons. The Warriors conceded a series of penalties and goal-line dropouts, however the visitors couldn't cash in on the opportunities presented.
The Warriors had the final say of the half with a piece of individual brilliance by winger Zac Santo. His grubber through and try with two minutes to play was converted by Harris-Tavita, meaning his side headed to the sheds with a commanding 24-6 lead.
Whatever the Dragons had to drink at half-time did the trick initially, as they scored two quick tries to reduce the gap. First hooker Reece Robson burrowed over from close range, then winger Jordan Pereira latched onto a cut out pass just moments later to score. Lomax converted both, taking scores to 24-18.
However, the good work was undone when Patrick Sipley cruised through some weak tackling to score under the posts after 50 minutes. This led to the Warriors getting their game plan back on track and Harris-Tavita scoring off a Cook grubber eight minutes later.
From there the Warriors comfortably held on to the ball and their three score lead. With six minutes to play, Cook slotted a short-range field goal to tack on some insurance. Robson pegged one back for the Dragons before time ran out, but the sheer weight of possession that the Warriors enjoyed in the last 20 minutes ensured a well-deserved victory.
The Warriors host their third home game in a row next weekend, welcoming the Newtown Jets to Mt Smart Stadium. The Dragons return to WIN Stadium, against a tough Panthers outfit.
Warriors 37 (J Tuivasa-Sheck, J Vuna, Matiu Love-Henry, Z Santo, Patrick Sipley, C Harris-Tavita tries; C Harris-Tavita 6 goals; S Cook field goal) def St George Illawarra Dragons 24 (R Robson 2, P Herbert, J Pereira tries; Z Lomax 4 goals)