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Warriors triumph in New Zealand homecoming

Stand-in Warriors coach Stacey Jones admitted his side “weren’t flash” in their 22-2 NRL win over the Wests Tigers, but after almost three years playing away from home it’s unlikely supporters or the team itself will be too concerned.

The win in front of 26,000 fans at a sold out Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Warriors.

More importantly, it re-established the club on home soil after over 1000 days without a home game due to COVID restrictions.

“I’m very happy, compared to the previous month or so,” said Jones.

“It’s been a great week coming home and the excitement around the game … to put in a gritty performance I thought, it capped off a great week.”

Given that the Tigers and Warriors were 14th and 15th on the ladder and averaging less than 17 points a game, it wasn’t a surprise that fixture quickly became an arm wrestle.

It took almost half an hour mark for the first try, when Warriors captain Tohu Harris crashed over from a good pass by Wayde Egan.

Shortly after, a good Warriors set saw Shaun Johnson send a bomb out wide for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to contest, with the end result seeing the ball come loose and dived on by Chanel Harris-Tavita for their second converted try.

The only scoring the Tigers could muster in the first half was an Adam Doueihi penalty goal just before the break.

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

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

Given the defensive nature of the game, a second Johnson penalty goal in the 65th minute pushed the lead out to 16-2 before the halfback had one last piece of magic.

A perfect kick enabled Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to bat back the ball for Jesse Arthars to score in the corner.

Johnson’s sideline conversion sealed a solid, if unspectacular win.

Try scorer Harris pointed out the importance of the home crowd.

“We’ve had a lot of good support away, but there’s nothing like the support we get here,” he said.

“Every single person was following and supporting us; it meant a lot and gave us a lot of energy.”

The Warriors will need every bit of that for their next game at Mt Smart in three weeks’ time, when they face a powerful Melbourne Storm side that beat them by a record 70-10 back on Anzac Day.

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