A first loss. It was bound to happen. The St George Illawarra Dragons unbeaten run ends after a loss to the New Zealand Warriors.
Despite missing both Shaun Johnson and Solomone Kata, it was backup half Mason Lino who made his presence felt.
With 18,000 vocal fans cheering them on, the Warriors dug deep and showed steely resolve to win.
With many questioning their commitment, the Warriors have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with in 2018.
The win was made more remarkable by the fact that the Warriors only had 38% of possession in the game.
Repelling the Dragons attacking raids in the opening stanza, the start of the match was a genuine arm wrestle.
The Warriors heads could have gone down after form back-rower Tohu Harris left the field due to concussion.
Although it only galvanised them as Anthony Gelling scored his first NRL try, slicing through to score.
Up 10-0 at the break, the Warriors would start the second half with 12 men after Blake Green was sent to the sin-bin.
Some individual brilliance from Ben Hunt gave the Dragons a sniff before the Dragons were denied a second try.
In an aerial contest with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the bunker deemed that James Graham had knocked the ball on.
From there, the Warriors pounced. Issac Luke kicked a 40/20 before darting over from dummy half to score.
The Dragons refused to lie down, however, as Tariq Sims barged his way over to keep the pressure on.
It was not to be, though, as Isaiah Papali’i finished off an offloading frenzy of a play to score.
With less possession, a sin-binning, no star half and losing Harris, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney rated this win among the best.
”They showed a tremendous amount of courage tonight with all the adversity against a top of the table team,” he said.
”The guys found a way to keep the side with the best attack in the competition out – with 12 men at one point – so I was just so proud of how they went about their work.
”We spoke last week about commitment and attitude needing to improve and I thought they did that tonight.”
Dragons coach Paul McGregor praised the Warriors for executing their plan, even if it frustrated him.
“They came here with a plan, they gave away a lot of penalties and defended their line really well, whether that was part of it or not I’m not sure,” he said.
“Their line speed was incredible and their scramble defence was the best from any side I have seen this year. But it was frustrating because of the constant stop-start nature of that first period.”
Player of the Game:
3. Issac Luke
2. Anthony Gelling
- Ben Hunt