Warriors celebrate homecoming by dispatching Tigers

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 4 Jul 2022, 8:48am
Photo / Photosport
Photo / Photosport

Warriors celebrate homecoming by dispatching Tigers

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 4 Jul 2022, 8:48am

Warriors 22
Tigers 2

Boy, the Warriors needed this.

Not just the team, but the club, the staff, the sponsors and the fanbase.

It was for just about everyone who has worn a Warriors jersey or cap, and all those supporters that have sworn at their television in frustration over the last three seasons of isolation.

This was much more than a game – it was a restart – but the Warriors desperately needed the result.

They got it, with a hard fought but ultimately convincing 22-2 victory over the West Tigers.

It might not mean much come the end of the season, but it means everything now.

After 1038 days the Warriors were back at Mt Smart – and they delivered. It was their first win since April 30, breaking a seven-match losing streak – and achieved off the back of rock solid defence.

The Tigers are another struggling outfit – but they were up for this contest – and it took a committed team effort to get the job done.

Tohu Harris and Josh Curran anchored the pack, while Bunty Afoa marked his 100th game with some trademark charges and Wayde Egan was strong at dummy half. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak played like a man possessed – clearly inspired by the sellout 26,009 crowd – while Chanel Harris-Tavita was everywhere he needed to be at fullback and Shaun Johnson kicked and organised well.

The attack is still a work in progress – often on the predictable side – but the team will take great heart from this result, ahead of the bye next weekend.

Sunday was a special occasion, with faint echoes of the opening game of 1995. Dave Dobbyn roused the crowd – especially with the "Loyal" singalong – before the team emerged to smoke, drums and fire from the far tunnel.

The atmosphere was electric and the team almost provided a fairytale start, with Harris-Tavita just losing his footing as he backed up an Egan break in the first minute.

The home side responded to the support and dominated the first quarter, camped in opposition territory for almost the entire time.

They kept banging at the door – with Harris-Tavita and Ronald Volkman going close – against a surprisingly tenacious Tigers defence, evidenced when they settled for a 24th minute penalty to open the scoring.

Frustration and tension was starting to build, before Harris crashed over in the 28th minute, off a smart Egan pass.

That was the cue for wild celebrations, which were extended minutes later when Harris-Tavita was first to react after Watene-Zelezniak contested a Johnson bomb. Jesse Arthars took a lot of the credit, as he caught Jackson Hastings on the fifth tackle.

The Warriors should have had a greater advantage at halftime, given their dominance, with 62 per cent possession, 946 metres gained to 604 and 21 tackle busts to eight.

But they didn't, with a failure to convert numerous opportunities, which made for a tense second half.

The Tigers came back into the match, as they were always going to, enjoying some periods of prominence. A superb Harris-Tavita tackle stopped a likely try, as the Warriors were tested defensively.

They had their moments – but lacked patience and precision on attack – though a 65th minute Johnson penalty restored their 12-point advantage.

Watene-Zelezniak then defused a dangerous bomb as Ken Maumalo lurked dangerously.

Brilliant defence from Curran and Harris-Tavita stopped another menacing moment, before half the team converged to take James Roberts over the right sideline.

The long-awaited victory was confirmed when Arthars slipped through near the right touchline, to cue celebrations that went long into the night.

Warriors 22 (Tohu Harris, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Jesse Arthars tries; Shaun Johnson 3 cons, 2 pens)
Tigers 2 (Adam Doueihi pen)
Halftime: 14-2