The Warriors are a step closer to sealing a spot in the finals after a scratchy 30-22 victory over the Wests Tigers on Saturday night, which made it five wins on the trot for the Kiwi club.
After racing out to an early 12-0 lead, the Warriors' defence wilted on several occasions through the 80 minutes, including giving up 12 points in two minutes at one stage, to leave coach Andrew Webster with plenty to ponder ahead of hosting the Sea Eagles in Round 25.
Inspired by a season-best performance from five-eighth Daine Laurie, who set up three tries and scored one himself, the NRL's cellar-dwellers pushed the third-ranked Warriors all the way in what was a Wests Tigers' home match played in front of 25,118 in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Adding to the Warriors' woes was the loss of Wayde Egan in the 23rd minute, with the hooker sent to hospital after being hit by the elbow of Stefano Utoikamanu – who was placed on report for the incident – while attempting to make a tackle.
Luke Metcalf try 6th minute
Earlier the Warriors had made a positive start and after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was denied by a last-ditch tackle in the opening minutes, Mitch Barnett broke through the line and linked with a racing Luke Metcalf for the opener.
Shaun Johnson then sent Adam Pompey over seven minutes later to double the lead, before Laurie dragged his side back into the encounter with two pieces of individual brilliance.
After laying on the final pass for Starford To'a to cross, Laurie sold the Warriors with a huge dummy on the next set and broke the line before finding Luke Brooks, with both tries converted and scores tied once again.
Daine Laurie try 57th minute
Watene-Zelezniak got over for his 18th four-pointer of the year eight minutes before the break to give the Warriors a 16-12 half-time lead.
Tohu Harris extended the advantage early in the second half, before Laurie darted 40 metres following a Jahream Bula line break to reduce the gap.
A possible equaliser was ruled out a short time later when the Bunker found a knock on and once down the other end the Warriors kicked a penalty goal to establish a six-point margin.
A try under the posts from prop Addin Fonua-Blake with three to play looked to have put the result beyond doubt, but the Wests Tigers had one more in them, kicking short on the restart and spreading wide to cross again through To'a.
But the comeback wasn't to be, with the Warriors now assured of ending Round 24 in third place.
Match: Wests Tigers v Warriors
Round 24 -
Venue: FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
- The Warriors are now only one win away from securing a place in the top eight and will also be assured of playing finals if the Knights lose to the Bulldogs in Round 24.
- The Wests Tigers remained in the contest until the dying minutes despite having only 43 percent possession and completing 65 percent of their sets with the ball.
- Wayde Egan was sent to hospital after suffering a suspected throat injury in a 23rd minute incident which saw Stefano Utoikamanu put on report for making contact with his elbow in a hit-up. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak went on report for a similar incident in the second half.
- Addin Fonua-Blake chewed through 262 metres off 26 carries and scored a try in a huge performance in the front row.
- It was the Warriors' 700th game since entering the competition in 1995.
- Wests Tigers have now conceded 44 tries in their past seven games.
Play of the Game
Wonderful vision and instincts from Daine Laurie, who showed all of the skills that made him such a highly-rated product coming through the grades. After selling his markers with a big dummy, Laurie streaked free and calmly assessed his options before spinning and flicking the ball to his halves partner, Luke Brooks, who did the rest.
Luke Brooks try 18th minute
What They Said
"I'm relieved with the two points. The tries we conceded I didn't think were us. We don't usually concede tries like that. You're going to concede points at some stage but credit to them, we held our nerve. There's a lot of pressure there against a team that is throwing the ball around. We were good enough to get the win." - Warriors coach Andrew Webster
Warriors: Round 24
"It's been happening most of the year, I remember earlier in the year we were getting pipped and people were saying we were close. It's closer to our best side out there tonight which helps. The two halves have formed a combination but all year it's been different combinations. We're finally putting a team together that will stand up together next year. Morale wise there's a group there that is tight as hell. We might be losing at the moment but we're not being beat. There's a big difference." - Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens
Wests Tigers v Warriors
The Warriors remain in New Zealand for the week ahead of hosting the Sea Eagles at Go Media Stadium, with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad a chance of returning after missing Round 24 due to a head knock. The Wests Tigers are home at CommBank Stadium to face the Dolphins.