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Winger Garry Tuilekutu bagged a hat-trick and hooker Makaia Tafua a double to help the One New Zealand Warriors to break through for their first win of the season when they held out St George Illawarra in today’s seventh-round Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) encounter at Collegians Sporting Complex in Wollongong.

It was reward at last for the players who had bounced back from a challenging start in the first three rounds of the season to push Newcastle before losing 8-18 and then Manly Warringah last week in a 16-20 defeat.

While the Dragons, running fourth in the competition, opened the scoring in the fourth minute, the Warriors replied through Tafua in the 26th minute and then Tuilekutu with his first four minutes later enabling them to go to halftime with a 10-6 lead.

St George Illawarra surged to a 16-10 advantage with two tries early in the second spell before two Tuilekutu tries in the space of two minutes and Tafua’s second in the 60th minute – all converted by William Piliu – flipped the contest with the Warriors bolting to a 28-16 lead inside the last 10 minutes of the 70-minute match.

The Dragons clawed it back to 22-28 with their fourth try in the 63rd minute but the One New Zealand Warriors, desperate to savour victory for the first time in six attempts, defended stoically to hold on for a well-deserved and much-needed win.

They’re back home next Saturday facing the Penrith Panthers at North Harbour Stadium. The Panthers had their just their second loss of the season today, going down to the Wests Tigers 18-20.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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