NZ Warriors shake off hoodoo in Wellington

DAVID LONG IN WELLINGTON
Last updated 05:04 30/03/2014

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Hoodoos, schmoodoos.

One by one the Warriors are ticking off those so-called bogey venues - and doing it in the usual edge-of-the-seat emotional rollercoaster bag-of-nerves style that we have come to expect from them.

Last week they won in Townsville for the first time in 12 years. And last night they were able to record their first win in Wellington in seven attempts, defeating the Wests Tigers 42-18 after initially trailing 0-12.

Sure, they're still winless at Eden Park, but they can have another crack at ending that unwanted streak in a couple of weeks when the Bulldogs visit.

On the form of the last 50 minutes of this performance, they are a reasonable bet to do it too.

This match finished exactly two hours after it started, thanks to an incredible eight decisions sent to the video referees.

But the healthy crowd of 22,512 clearly felt they received plenty of entertainment value for their money.

While Warriors coach Matt Elliott wouldn't elaborate, he teased the media in the post-match press conference by hinting a number of his players were less than 100 per cent going into the game.

"Without going into too much detail, the team showed a heap of character again and that allows us to play the type of footy we were capable of," he said. "There is a bit of a back story to it all, but I think the team would prefer I didn't share it, but I'm stoked for them all."

Wins never seem to be straightforward for the Warriors and this one was no different. From 12-0 down, they bounded out to lead 28-12.

The bad stuff was really bad. Manu Vatuvei came within centimetres of the biggest gaffe of his career when he was all too casual at grounding the ball in-goal and a quickwitted Braith Anasta almost beat him to the ball.

Anasta scored soon after and then Sam Tomkins took a risk that a Tigers grubber would run over the dead ball line.

It was a horrible gamble that blew up in the English import's face when James Tedesco pounced on the ball. Adding to the early anguish was big-haired lock Sione Lousi who was placed on report in the 11th minute for an illegal tackle on Cory Paterson.

After 33 minutes the Warriors were looking down the barrel of their third defeat in four games. But remarkably they took a lead to the break. There were two similar-looking tries from Glen Fisiiahi down the right wing before the Warriors conjured up one of those specials that only they are capable of pulling off.

Straight after the restart from the second Fisiiahi try, the halftime hooter sounded.

Hurrell had the ball at the Warriors' 30m line, but instead of running into a tackle he charged upfield and the attack continued with Nathan Friend kicking the ball into the in-goal where, incredibly, Shaun Johnson was first to it.

For the Warriors, the second half started just as well as the first one had finished. Fisiiahi brought up his hat-trick and then Vatuvei got in on the act in the 47th minute for his 120th NRL try.

Robbie Farah forced the ball over the line to score the Tigers' third try in the 58th minute, but further tries to Jayson Bukuya, Tomkins and Fisiiahi (for his fourth) sealed the game, as much as that can ever be said about this side.

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The Warriors have now won two games on the bounce and, with the confidence they have, the key issue is how much belief they can take into next weekend's fixture.

"A measure of that will be next week when we go to Shark Park," Elliott said of the coming assignment against Cronulla.

"I don't want to draw our attention to that, other than there was a lot of good stuff in that performance and there was a lot of stuff we'll need to work on to be better again and we're all committed to ensuring we find a way to get better each week."

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

- Sunday Star Times

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