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Triumphant New Zealand Warriors coach Daniel Anderson was confident his side could shade the National Rugby League (NRL) favourites in last night's playoff match but did not expect a crushing 48-22 victory over the Bulldogs.
"We've played pretty good football, last week we were ahead 28-0 at halftime (against the Wests Tigers) but I didn't think it would happen.
"Sometimes I sit back in the box and get amazed at their skill. They back themselves and they have all the time. I can't complain."
Anderson said the fine conditions at the Sydney Showground aided their free-wheeling style.
"It was certainly conducive for them to showcase their skill and probably everyone played one of their best games this year."
Five-try hero Francis Meli was typically nonplussed about his historic haul.
"I'm pretty rapt about it," he said before Anderson helped the shy Samoan negotiate a big media presence.
"He's been very good for us this year. You don't get to see him that much but he's been powerful for us. Five is beyond expectations."
It was the first time a player has scored five tries in an NRL finals match and set a new Warriors season tryscoring record, his 23 overtaking Sean Hoppe's 19 in 1995.
Downcast Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes described the performance as "one of those nights" for his team.
"We made too many errors, we missed one on one tackles and they played well," Folkes said.
He said the Bulldogs' preparation had been good but they had been "over-enthusiastic" on the night.
Captain Steve Price, who toiled hard in a losing effort, said too many defensive errors killed off his team.
"You can't keep defending your line against the quality of sides in the top eight and expect to win games like that.
"You've got to hang on to the ball, complete your sets and put pressure on the opposition ? we did it in patches tonight to get back to 16-16 but the Warriors showed what a great side they are."
Folkes said a stray pass from replacement forward Corey Hughes that turned over possession and led to Meli's third try may have been a turning point.
"They (the Warriors) were struggling a fair bit at that stage and he'll wish he didn't try that pass."
The try put the Warriors up 20-16 and effectively ended the Bulldogs' challenge.
Folkes said he was happy with Braith Anasta although the five-eighth appeared ineffective after a five-week lay off with a right foot fracture.
Anasta was pulled with 20 minutes remaining but Folkes was impressed with his effort.
"It was pretty hard for him to be out there for 80 minutes in semi-final football but he'll be better for the run."
Stacey Jones was replaced with 16 minutes to go after struggling with his groin injury but Anderson was confident we would be fit for the Warriors' next outing.
The Warriors return home today.