The NZ Warriors managed to notch up an impressive home win, but sadly a crowd of not much over 5,000 people were at Mt Smart Stadium to see proceedings. Regardless, the Warriors put away a poorly performing North Queensland Cowboys side 24-14, with the Cowboys now registering 10 losses on the trot.
While injuries are playing a part, the Cowboys were simply awful at times, looking more like a park football side than and certainly a shadow of their former NRL dominating selves.
It was a complete turnaround after earlier in the NRL 2008 season, the Cowboys beat the Warriors by 28 points in round six, this time the NZ Warriors were a force and dominated every aspect of the game in wet conditions.
Warriors centre Sonny Fai snared the opening points, when he pushed away a cover tackle from Cowboys captain Jonathan Thurston to score a try down the wing at the 16-minute mark.
The Warriors took their second try after 26 minutes when halfback Grant Rovelli threw a pass to winger Aidan Kirk who broke through the Cowboys defence to score.
Although the Cowboys rarely looked dangerous they scored a try just seconds before halftime, when hooker Aaron Payne kicked a grubber that snuck behind the Warriors defence, allowing winger John Williams to bag a try and leave them in the contest down 8-4 at the break.
The Cowboys scored just five minutes into the second half, with Williams taking his second try following a chip kick.
Thurston’s conversion of the try give the visitors a sniff of victory – but it didn’t last.
The Warriors were quick to reply after interchange Jerome Ropati pushed through a tackle from Cowboy Ben Harris, regaining the lead to see the Warriors ahead 12-10.
Another Warriors try, to Simon Mannering after a superb pass from halfback Grant Rovelli saw the lead jump to 8 points.
Warriors lock Micheal Luck scored a try with eight minutes to go to put the game beyond doubt, in front of a crowd of almost 8,000.
Cowboys coach Ian Millward thought his side was better than the result indicated.
“Their effort was outstanding. I thought their attitude was great. It is a good sign of a team when they don’t go away,” he said.
“We are having a lot of close games at the moment and if we keep that attitude up and keep working at our game we will get a win. I don’t think there was a score that was a fair reflection of the effort we put in.
Warriors coach Ivan Cleary was happy with his team’s performance.
“I thought we were going to win it most of the game to be honest. I thought we controlled things pretty well. Defensively we were really good tonight,” Cleary said.
“I feel like we are building momentum in terms of our defence, but whether we have got any in terms of wins, we have only got a couple,” Cleary said.
Warriors captain Steve Price said his team still had room for improvement.
“What I aim for is that they have to earn their points and I felt a couple of times they didn’t really have to,” he said.
WARRIORS 24 (S Fai A Kirk M Luck S Mannering J Ropati tries L Hohaia 2 goals)
NORTH QUEENSLAND 14 (J Williams 2 A Graham tries J Thurston goal)