With emotions running high in New Zealand after the tragic events in Christchurch, the New Zealand Warriors used it as fuel to guide them to victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs.
In an emotional game for all Kiwis, it was the perfect start for the side and the perfect way to let out their emotion onto the field.
Cast asunder by many as a genuine threat this season, the 40-6 thrashing put the Warriors on the map.
In front of a loud, vocal and emotional home crowd of over 18,000, the Warriors got off to the perfect start.
Partnering with young gun Adam Keighran – who shone in his debut match – Blake Green had more pressure on his shoulders.
He started the match well and it was his spearing aerial kick that darted through the air that led to the opening try for Ken Maumalo.
A near identical kick to the other winger in David Fusitu’a resulted in a try, as he batted the ball down for Solomone Kata to score.
The two halves would then combine for the Warriors third try. Green was once again involved.
This time, he laid on a pass for Keighran who did the rest, dancing and weaving his way through some flimsy Bulldogs defence.
All momentum was with the Warriors and they would further extend their lead to go up 22-0 at the break.
Nathaniel Roache marked his return to first-grade – this was his first game since August 2017 – with a try, capped off by good lead-up play.
The scoreline did not get much better for the Bulldogs; this time it was Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who did some dancing to score a simple try.
They got the tiniest sniff when new recruit Christian Crichton scored his first try in the blue and white.
It was not to be, however, as Kata nabbed a second, before Peta Hiku added his name to the scoresheet.
With the emotion high and the pressure great, it was, in the end, a great win by the Warriors.
The horror of Christchurch hit hard for Jazz Tevaga who has family in the area.
“I was pretty emotional hearing the news yesterday,” Tevaga said.
“I have got a lot of family down there and obviously I was born down there, my heart was very heavy yesterday, it was this morning as well.
“We just wanted to pay our respects, so ‘Fus’ [David Fusitu’a] led us in a prayer and we just came together.”
Also lamenting the tragic events in Christchurch, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney hopes the performance put even the smallest smile on fans’ faces.
“What we do as a job, we get an opportunity to go out and potentially have people clapping, smiling and cheering when we finish,” Kearney said.
“That’s 80 minutes of a bit of happiness in the day after a pretty horrific day or so.”
It was a lacklustre performance from a Bulldogs perspective, as coach Dean Pay admitted his side was just outplayed and out-enthused.
“Physically they were just too good for us,” Pay said.
“They brought the ball out of their own end [better], they played it faster than us.
“It’s an attitude thing… their tackle breaks [were] something like 40, it’s just not good enough.
“We prepared really well. Our attitude towards how physical we need to be needs to be better.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Adam Keighran
2. Solomone Kata
- David Fusitu’a