Eight days after their heaviest loss of the season, the One New Zealand Warriors trounced St George Illawarra 42-12 at Ziems Park in Sydney today to lock down their place in the New South Wales Cup finals.
The victory, coming less than 24 hours after the club’s NRL side sealed a top four finals place, ensures the Slade Griffin-coached side finishes the regular season in third spot on 33 points with a record of 14 wins, a draw and nine losses.
It means they’ll have a second life in the top five format being used in the competition's play-offs.
A loss today would have left the One New Zealand Warriors waiting anxiously for the outcome of other matches which could have even seen them miss out on the finals.
Instead they produced a compelling performance that put any doubt to rest as they turned a 20-point into a 30-point victory.
They went into the contest with a backline which boasted the experienced Brayden Wiliame in the centres and Te Maire Martin at standoff, both making their comebacks after injury lay-offs. Alongside them were NRL players Taine Tuaupiki at fullback, Edward Kosi on the wing and Ronald Volkman at halfback. The pack included 2023 regular NRL interchange forward Tom Ale as well as former first grader James Gavet.
Wiliame had the Warriors on the board after just seven minutes before the Dragons briefly had a 6-4 lead midway through the first half.
From there the scoring was strictly one way with captain Kalani Going, Tuaupiki and winger Ben Farr crossing in the space of 13 minutes to give their side a solid 20-6 halftime lead.
That became 26-6 two minutes into the second half when Wiliame went over for his second try.
St George Illawarra’s second try momentarily checked the momentum but Going’s second try plus touchdowns for Volkman and hooker Paul Roache sealed the deal.
As well as the win and what it meant, there was also encouraging news for Martin who came through his return match well.
Ziems Park, Sydney
St George Illawarra Dragons 12 (Zach Herring, Treigh Stewart tries; Alexander Lobb 2 conversions).
One New Zealand Warriors 42 (Brayden Wiliame 2, Kalani Going 2, Taine Tuaupiki, Ben Farr, Ronald Volkman, Paul Roache tries; Ronald Volkman 5 conversions).
Halftime: 20-6 One New Zealand Warriors.
One New Zealand Warriors | Taine Tuaupiki; Ben Farr, Patrick Moimoi, Brayden Wiliame, Edward Kosi; Te Maire Martin, Ronald Volkman; Tanner Stowers-Smith, Paul Roache, James Gavet; Kalani Going (c), Jacob Laban; Tom Ale. Interchange: Zyon Maiu’u, Michael Sio, Isaiah Vagana, Maia Sands.