A finals appearance may not be on the agenda for 2021 but the New Zealand Warriors managed to pull off an upset win over the Wests Tigers.
Led by their veterans and on the back of a Peta Hiku double, the Warriors won the game 26-20 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Trailing by six at the half-time break, they dug deep and their perseverance paid off in spades.
It was a case of falling at the hurdle in games they are expected to win if they want to secure a finals berth for the Tigers.
It was a fast start for the Tigers who scored the opening two tries of the game.
The first came off a lovely offload from Luciano Leilua and captain Moses Mbye showed good hands to grab the ball low and score.
David Nofoaluma then continued his try-scoring exploits, tip-toeing down the sideline to score.
Both conversions were missed – one by Mbye and the other by Adam Doueihi – but the Tigers still lead 8-0 at this point.
The Warriors would soon hit back, as Karl Lawton scooted out of dummy half and carried three defenders with him to score.
With the try converted, the Warriors then levelled the score at 8-apiece after receiving a penalty for a strip.
The Warriors had all the momentum but the pendulum swung back in the Tigers favour just before the break.
Benji Marshall would step up to the plate and crack the defensive line to find a charging Sam McIntyre who crossed the line to score.
Down but not out, Hiku would score the first of his two tries soon after the break.
Despite four defenders around him, the veteran centre showed great strength to plant the ball down.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck then came to the fore by forcing repeat sets, eventually leading to Hiku’s second try.
He wrong-footed Nofoaluma with a smart dummy, giving him enough space to stay in the field of play and score his second.
The Warriors were not done there, though, as a Tommy Talau error gifted a simple chance for Tohu Harris.
Adam Pompey was there to collect the scraps from the dropped ball and found Harris who coasted over the line.
Talau redeemed himself when he was the recipient of a gem of a pass from Marshall as the Tigers found themselves with a chance.
Though a grandstand finish was not to eventuate and the Warriors hung on for their gutsiest win of the season.
Not one to hold back, Tigers coach Michael Maguire lambasted his side’s poor attitude.
“Defence is all about attitude,” Maguire said.
“We were rolled set after set through the park and weren’t prepared to put our body in front so paid for it.”
Warriors coach Todd Payten praised captain Tuivasa-Sheck, who he knows is doing it tough away from family.
“I feel for Roger, I think he’s doing a tremendous job. To be fair, he’s doing it tougher than all of us,” Payten said.
“He’s the only Kiwi over here without his family and he’s got two babies under three.
“He’s a personable kid. In Auckland, he doesn’t go out a lot. He lives on the edge of town.
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Peta Hiku
2. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
- Benji Marshall