Warriors weather the Storm for vital win
The Warriors have surged past the Storm 30-22 at Mt Smart Stadium this afternoon, in one of the best games of league the NRL has seen this year.
From stunning length of the field tries, match saving tackles and dramatic, momentum-changing refereeing decisions, the clash was a beauty; surely ranking as one of the best in an already existing history between the pair.
Much had been made of the Warriors' ability to humble the Storm in the past.
Though the Storm still hold the ledger, the New Zealand side and their typically wild, unpredictable play has traditionally rattled the direct, structured approach of Craig Bellamy's side.
Yet while the razzle dazzle was there from the Warriors this afternoon, the foundation of their victory was built on hard-word, good second and third phase yards and using opportunities cleverly when they came their way.
Skipper Simon Mannering and first-five Thomas Leuluai were the standouts for the hosts. Mannering led his side from the front, making important tackles - including a try-saver on Maurice Blair in the second stanza, and making workhorse metres throughout.
Creative with the boot and industrious throughout, Leuluai was just as important - scoring a hugely deserved first half try.
The Storm, meanwhile, were rocks and diamonds. While structured from set-play, the performance lacked general execution - bombing five tries overall.
After a quiet first forty, star fullback Billy Slater, and Origin halfback Cooper Cronk, were brutal in the second half - ripping the Warriors right edge to ribbons, and taking their team within two points, twice in the second half.
Slater, Blair and Cronk would all cross - while Will Chambers would chase Shaun Johnson the length of the field to deny the Warriors' speedy halfback four points with try line just inches away.
The Warriors would just hang on though - with second half tries to centre Konrad Hurrell and fullback Kevin Locke the ultimate difference.
Warriors winger Ngani Laumape crossed twice in the first 12 minutes, handing his side an early lead.
While the Storm hit back, through winger Justin O'Neill, the home side were polished in all aspects of their game in the first 40.
The Storm's at-times poor execution, and bad luck, certainly helped the Warriors cause, however.
Only three minutes after O'Neill's try in the left-hand corner, fellow winger Sisa Waqa should have crossed on the right but for a forward pass.
Both attacking raids came from massive 40/20s from Cronk and Cameron Smith. Waqa's fingers let him down after 22 minutes, when he dropped a Cronk chip.
The Storm should have felt aggrieved when they made their next attacking raid, after 25 minutes.
O'Neill crossed again in the left-hand corner, off another scrum, though saw the ball dislodged from his hands thanks to a knee to his shoulder from Locke.
The Warriors kept grinding - and were rewarded with a good Leuluai try, which featured some impressive footwork close to the line, only five minutes before the half ended.