Warriors triumph 22-2 over Wests Tigers in emotional NRL homecoming to New Zealand, St George Illawarra beat Canberra 12-10

The Warriors have made a victorious NRL return to New Zealand, beating the Wests Tigers 22-2 in a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

In Saturday’s second game, St George Illawarra stopped Canberra amid much drama on a full-time basis to win 12-10 in wet conditions at Wollongong.

The Warriors’ victory broke a run of seven lost losses, but most importantly, the club’s recovery on home soil after playing in Australia since the start of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It had been 1,038 days since the Warriors last played at Mt Smart Stadium.

Given that the Tigers and Warriors finished 14th and 15th respectively on the ladder and both averaged less than 17 points per game, it was no surprise that the game quickly turned into an arm wrestle.

The Warriors had the better of the early exchanges and appeared to have taken the lead via a darting point by Wayde Egan from the dummy half, but that was disallowed as there was no clear basis in the replay.

Not long after, they settled for a penalty through Shaun Johnson’s shoe.

It took almost half an hour for the first attempt when Warriors captain Tohu Harris took it upon himself to crash after a good pass from Egan.

This was greeted with tremendous delight by the large crowd, especially in the packed south grandstand at the end of the field where Harris was crossing.

A sold-out crowd at Mt Smart Stadium cheered the Warriors.Getty Images: Hannah Peters

Shortly after, Johnson saw a good set of Warriors send a bomb wide for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to battle, with the end result that the ball came free and was dived by Chanel Harris-Tavita for their second converted attempt.

The Tigers’ only goal in the first half was a penalty from Adam Doueihi just before half-time.

If the first half was a grind, the second half was even more so.

While both sides had few problems completing their sets, line breaks were rare with the Tigers’ best shot at a Luke Garner run that ended in a knock-on.

Given the defensive nature of the game, another penalty from Johnson in the 65th minute to take it to a three-point lead seemed enough for the Warriors to win it.

But Johnson had one last bit of magic for the 26,000-strong crowd when he blasted a perfect kick for Watene-Zelezniak to hit back for Jesse Arthars to score into the corner.

Johnson’s sideline conversion delivered a solid, if unspectacular, win, but it’s unlikely Warriors fans will worry about how it was accomplished.

“We’ve had a lot of good support, but nothing beats the support we’re getting here,” said Harris.

“Everyone followed and supported us. It meant a lot and gave us a lot of energy.”

Dragons edge Raiders in dramatic finish

A Canberra Raiders NRL player is tackled by two St George Illawarra opponents.
Adam Elliott of Canberra (second from right) meets the defense of St George Illawarra.Getty Images: Mark Nolan

St George Illawarra strengthened his push to play finals after claiming an ugly win over Canberra after a controversial end to the match.

The Raiders had a golden opportunity to take the win in the last six seconds when Joe Tapine was tackled five meters from the St George Illawarra line.

Jack Bird and Ben Hunt deliberately laid over the top of the Raiders support and as he signaled another six, referee Peter Gough did not award Canberra a penalty to potentially end the match.

The win moves the Dragons to eighth place, leaving the Raiders four points behind in eleventh place.

Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton struggled to force himself into the game – his first since missing State of Origin II with COVID-19 – and was underpowered, making four mistakes and enduring a scorching time with the shoe.

The 29-year-old gave the Dragons their first try of the afternoon when he tapped a short drop-out back into the hands of Talatau Amone and also failed to hit a ball from a penalty that tied the game.

Under appalling conditions in front of 7,069 spectators, Amone got his first try of the season in the 18th minute.

Zac Lomax missed the conversion, but added a penalty after another Raiders striker got no further than 10 yards.

Canberra hit back through fullback Xavier Savage before Moses Suli made his way just before half time to give the Dragons a 12-4 lead at half time.

Wighton screwed up the opening kick of the first half and only clever defensive positioning from Savage prevented the Dragons from extending their lead when Andrew McCullough was held up after a dart across the line from close range.

The Raiders – who played with tailwinds in the second half – got close to Tapine before Hudson Young cut a sharp line to score in the 54th minute.

Fogarty managed to add the conversion from right up front to put down a clean finish.

Wighton’s actions disappointed them again and with five minutes to go he failed to get the Raiders out of trouble.

Canberra got one last crack in the Dragons’ line, but Tapine couldn’t play the ball when Hunt and Bird held down the Raiders support, leading to an outburst of frustration from captain Elliott Whitehead.

ladder

MONKEY/ABC

Posted updated

Leave a Comment