Warriors down Wests Tigers in Wellington
SAM WORTHINGTON AT WESTPAC STADIUM
Finally, the Warriors can call Wellington home.
In their seventh visit to the capital the Auckland-based club have broken through for their first win, thumping the Wests Tigers 42-18 in front of another healthy Westpac Stadium crowd of 22,512.
Video referees Steve Chiddy and Reece Williams were the busiest men at the ground, disallowing four first-half tries before they started giving the green light.
Things looked as gloomy as the overcast Wellington sky early on as the Tigers capitalised on errors to shoot out to a 12-0 lead, while luckless Warriors centre Jerome Ropati left the field in the 12th minute with a broken jaw.
But the Warriors then scored 26 unanswered points to take control of the contest and record their second straight win while moving to a 2-2 record.
Wing Glen Fisiiahi grabbed four tries as the Warriors' key strike weapons all rose to the occasion.
Halfback Shaun Johnson tormented the Tigers with his pinpoint kicking game and scored a memorable try himself as the home side took a 14-12 lead into halftime.
Blockbusting centre Konrad Hurrell - who got a huge reception when he took the field for Ropati - was as strong as ever but also showed great awareness to draw and pass three times for a grateful Fisiiahi.
And fullback Sam Tomkins, who had dithered in the in-goal to allow Wests' second try, made amends with some classy touches, most notably a clever tap pass to set the Warriors away for their first points.
Tomkins then scythed through himself for a late four-pointer.
It was far from perfect but coach Matt Elliott will be thrilled with his side's character after opening the season with two weak losses.
After pulling away to 26-12, the Warriors were perhaps guilty of sitting on their lead and inspirational Tigers captain Robbie Farah burrowed over for a try to cut the deficit to eight midway through the second half.
The Tigers sniffed their opportunity but the Warriors showed real grit to withstand several waves of attack before Jayson Bukuya, Tomkins and Fisiiahi all struck to settle the argument in emphatic fashion.
It was a happy way for Warriors skipper Simon Mannering to celebrate breaking Steve Price's record for most games captaining the club.
Mannering had been crook all week with a virus but turned up and put in his usual workmanlike shift.
It wasn't quite the same atmosphere as last year's 30,000 that turned up to watch the Warriors lose to the Bulldogs but those that did will be more than happy.
The Tigers suffered a big blow when fullback and try-scorer James Tedesco limped off and the visitors were made to pay for having no backs cover on the bench.
The most memorable moment was undoubtedly Johnson's try to close out the first half.
The siren had sounded and Johnson's grubber attempt was blocked by the Tigers who then went on the attack themselves.
But they coughed it up and in true Warriors fashion they decided to have another crack rather than just go into the sheds.
The ball was moved to hooker Nathan Friend who put a kick through as Farah fumbled and Johnson swooped.
It summed up the match as the bounce of the ball went the Warriors' way in Wellington for once.
NZ Warriors 42 (Glen Fisiiahi 4, Shaun Johnson, Manu Vatuvei, Jayson Bukuya, Sam Tomkins tries; Johnson 5 con) Wests Tigers 18 (Braith Anasta, James Tedesco, Robbie Farah tries, Pat Richards 3 con) HT: 14-12. Crowd: 22, 512
- Fairfax Media
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