Warriors players have lauded the courage of "inspirational" team-mate Nathan Friend after it emerged the "tough as nails" hooker refused to come off during his side's 30-20 win over the Brisbane Broncos despite suffering from a suspected broken jaw.
Off-season signing Friend appeared to break his jaw early in the gritty contest at Mt Smart Stadium and despite a mouth full of blood, stubbornly insisted on staying out in the middle.
He was taken to hospital immediately after the match for x-rays but there's no doubting his courage did wonders to inspire the Warriors as they charged to an unlikely victory against a team that was gunning for its seventh straight win.
"You can't look any further for inspiration than Friendy," utility Lewis Brown said.
"That just shows what type of bloke he is and how he didn't want to let the team down. He had the option to come off at half-time but he refused and went back on.
"Man, he just kept hitting it up all night and he's someone we all look up to. He is as tough as nails and if it is a broken jaw, he's going to be sorely missed in the next few weeks."
One club official said a debate about whether to pull Friend from the field had taken place on the sideline but admitted he had steadfastly refused to budge, reportedly saying: "I'm going to be out for up to six weeks so the last thing I want to do is come off now".
It was unclear on Saturday night how long he would be sidelined for.
Warriors captain Simon Mannering, meanwhile, described Friend's actions as "massive" and said he couldn't believe his team-mate had continued to run into the line with gusto despite having sustained a brutal injury.
"Throughout most of the first half, he had a lot of blood in his mouth and I think after one of the tries we scored, someone mentioned it," Mannering said.
"He wasn't saying anything. He just kept his head down and tackled his butt off.
"That was a massive effort and we had to take it on board and see what he was prepared to do to get the result at the end of the night.
"As team-mates we definitely respected that. It was (inspirational) and very tough on his behalf."
Likewise, Warriors coach Brian McClennan spoke glowingly of Friend's toughness - toughness he felt was shown not only by the hooker but the whole team during a gutsy victory.
"We are pretty happy about the fact that we hung tough. We defended some errors and it was a tough game out there," McClennan added.
"He (Friend) is a real tough customer and a good call that went out amongst the group that we have to take a hard edge on ourselves and play through tough periods like he has."
Throughout the stuttering start to his team's campaign, McClennan has begged his charges to "respect the ball". After all, nothing frustrates a coach more than watching poor passes get pushed when the pressure's on.
And finally that message appears to have hit home.
In a first half in which the Warriors were dominant, what would have impressed their boss even more than their four converted tries or even Friend's toughness was the way they all went about their business.
The offloads were notably absent and their completion rate by the break of 94 percent saw them in what Sky TV pundit Daryl Halligan described as "unchartered territory".
It was a bit like that for the Broncos, too, who wouldn't have believed the scoreboard when they trudged off the paddock at half-time, which revealed the Warriors ahead 24-10.
Led superbly around the park by young halfback Shaun Johnson, the hosts looked dangerous whenever they had the ball in hand and when Ben Henry scored after seven minutes, all signs pointed to an upset.
The Broncos are not the sort of team to clock off, however, and tries not long after to internationals Jack Reed and Alex Glenn saw them take the lead before three Warriors four-pointers - two of them coming from Gerard Beale fumbles - in the last 10 minutes of the half put them well ahead.
Without star halfback Peter Wallace, who limped from the field before half-time with a groin complaint, the visitors needed to find some inspiration and fast.
They appeared to get it after just three minutes when Reed looked to have scored his second in the corner. But video replays proved to be inconclusive and it was determined, somewhat luckily for the Warriors, that he hadn't grounded the ball.
Still, it was a worrying sign and few were surprised when, not long after, Ben Te'o steamrolled his way over to get the visitors back within eight points.
If the Warriors needed a wake-up call, this was it but with such little possession, they appeared helpless as the Broncos, time and again, threatened their line.
Only some stellar defence kept the resurgent visitors at bay. But with their completion rate starting to sink on the back of several silly mistakes, the Warriors were undoubtedly in serious trouble.
It felt as if it was only going to be a matter of time before something gave. The locals seemed dead on their feet and out for the count.
But showing tremendous courage and egged on by watching Friend continue to battle bravely out of dummy-half, they stayed strong and when Feleti Mateo scored against the run of play with seven minutes to go, the victory - their best under McClennan - was assured, although a late Sam Thaiday try took a little of the gloss of it.
Warriors 30 (B Henry, S Johnson, E Taylor, J Lillyman, F Mateo 1 try; J Maloney 5 con)
Broncos 20 (J Reed, A Glenn, B Te'o, S Thaiday 1 try; C Parker 2 con)
HT: 24-10 Warriors.
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