Flying finisher Dallin Watene-Zelezniak helped himself to a career-high four tries as the Warriors outclassed the Dragons 48-18 at WIN Stadium on Friday night.
The Warriors' ninth win of the season lifts them into the top four and looking good to play finals footy for the first time since 2018.
Andrew Webster's men opened the scoring in the fifth minute courtesy of a slick right side shift featuring Shaun Johnson and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and finished off by Watene-Zelezniak.
Six minutes later it was the Warriors other winger Marcelo Montoya getting across the stripe but the try was disallowed due to obstruction in the lead-up.
A dropped ball by Addin Fonua-Blake handed the home side good field position and they hit back through Tyrell Sloan, who showed dazzling speed to cross for his first try since Anzac Day against the Roosters. Zac Lomax's conversion gave the Dragons a 6-4 lead.
A trademark DWZ take-off
Another brilliant Sloan run set up another chance for the Dragons but Ravalawa was denied by a strong cover tackle from Montoya.
The Warriors regained the lead in the 26th minute when a long ball by Luke Metcalf found Montoya on the bounce and the winger powered through Sloan and Lomax to plant the ball down to make it 8-6 to the visitors.
A perfectly placed grubber by Johnson laid on a try for Bayley Sironen in the 30th minute and the halfback converted for a 14-6 lead.
Three minutes later it was the Warriors posting a third try when Jackson Ford flew high to bring down a Johnson bomb which the Dragons showed no desperation to try and catch.
Ford stuns the Dragons
The Warriors lost back-rower Marata Niukore to the sin bin early in the second half for a dangerous tackle and the Dragons capitalised almost immediately through Zane Musgrove, who took an inside pass from Jacob Liddle to score from close range.
It took the Warriors just three minutes to hit back when Watene-Zelezniak made it a double with a flying finish into the right corner to make it 24-12.
Come the 54th minute and Johnson had a try of his own courtesy of a neat offload from Fonua-Blake and the score blew out to 30-12.
Rocco Berry was next to score in the 57th minute as the Warriors went into overdrive before the Dragons twice lost the ball on the first tackle to cruel any chance of a comeback.
Errors from both sides then crept into the game before Francis Molo grabbed a rare try off a Jayden Sullivan grubber to make it 36-18.
With nine minutes to play Watene-Zelezniak grabbed his hat-trick with another spectacular finish before crossing for his fourth as the margin hit 30 points.
Match: Dragons v Warriors
Round 17 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
- Dragons forward Jack de Belin played his 200th NRL game. He joins Ben Hornby, Ben Creagh, Jason Nightingale, Matt Cooper and Dean Young as the only men to play 200 games for the joint venture.
- Warriors hooker Wayde Egan left the field for a HIA in the 15th minute which he passed.
- The Dragons successfully used a captain's challenge in the 21st minute when they had a knock-on call against Mikaele Ravalawa overturned and again in the 46th minute.
- The Warriors also had a successful captain's challenge in the 29th minute when Jack Bird was ruled to have played at an attempted pass by Bayley Sironen.
- Dragons centre Moses Suli left the field for a HIA in the 43rd minute after an incident that saw Marata Niukore put on report and sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. Suli was ruled Category 1 and did not return.
Silky SJ sets up Sironen
- Addin Fonua-Blake was a powerhouse up front for the Warriors with 190 run metres from 20 runs.
- Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has scored 10 tries in his past five games.
- The Warriors have already won three more games than they won in entire 2022 season.
- The Warriors' back three of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Marcelo Montoya and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak combined for 528 run metres, eight line breaks and 13 tackle breaks.
- Tohu Harris again led from the front for the Warriors with 18 runs for 156 metres and 27 tackles.
Marcelo muscles over
Play of the Game
Dragons fullback Tyrell Sloan boasts 12 tries in 28 NRL games and many of them have showcased his lightning speed and evasive skills. He added to his career highlight reel in the 14th minute at WIN Stadium when he exploded through a hole from 30 metres out and left Adam Pompey in his wake before swerving past fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to post the Dragons' opening try. The 21-year-old racked up 116 run metres, two line breaks and eight tackle breaks on a night when there was precious little for the Dragons faithful to cheer about.
Sloan slices through
What they Said
"I'm keen to get [my future] sorted out and I'll meet with the club this week some time. I had no communication with the club this week, we decided to put it on the backburner until after this game. There were a couple of tough days this week and a couple of really good days - it's the rollercoaster of rugby league. I was excited to get back to the group after Origin and Ryan said they had trained well during the week but we tossed up a pretty embarrassing game." - Dragons skipper Ben Hunt
"There's excuses everywhere if you want them but [Ben Hunt's situation] had nothing to do with it. We were embarrassing tonight and we apologise to our fans. It wasn’t an excuse before the game so it’s not an excuse now. We had 38 per cent of the ball in the first half against a quality side and we gave up a try just before half-time and it just spiralled from there." - Dragons interim coach Ryan Carr
Dragons: Round 17
"Our attack was really clinical at times but I thought there were moments we tried to be too cute and overplayed it. The right edge were really calm and executed really well. Charnze [Nicoll-Klokstad] is very clinical in making sure he gives his centre really good opportunities so his centre can put his winger away. He is so clear on how it looks for him at the moment and I'm really proud of how hard he has worked at it." - Warriors coach Andrew Webster
Warriors: Round 17
The Dragons kick off Round 18 with a Thursday night clash against the Sharks at PointsBet Stadium while the Warriors are at home to the Rabbitohs in Auckland.