TURBULENT TIGERS | Wests Tigers' 2016 season was... interesting.
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The Warriors opened the scoring through Centre Simon Mannering after just four minutes of play.
The home side continued to pile on the points, scoring almost a point a minute to lead 26-0 and dominating the opposition in all facets of the game.
But the Warriors were in again five minutes later with fullback Wade McKinnon slicing through some ordinary defence and finishing with a 90 metre sprint to the line.
The Dragons struck back with a solo effort from Jamie Soward, the halfback putting through a clever chip kick and showing excellent skills to soccer the ball ahead twice to score under the posts.
At half time, the Warriors held a commanding 32-12 lead.
The Dragons came out strongly early in the second half with a try to Josh Morris, the winger pouncing on well worked kick from Chase. But it would be the last time the visitors would trouble the scoreboard.
A try to Evarn Tuimavave put brought a swift end to any Dragons comeback, the Warriors forward crashing over in the 47th minute.
The match entered a period scrappy play from both sides before Warriors winger Michael Crockett crossed for a four-pointer in the 66th minute.
The successful conversion from five eighth Michael Witt capped off an entertaining afternoon for the locals, Witt slotting eight goals from as many attempts.
New Zealand Warriors 44 Tries: Simon Mannering (2), George Gatis, Jerome Ropati, Wade McKinnon, Evarn Tuimavave, Michael Crockett Goals: Michael Witt (8/8 ) St George Illawarra Dragons 16 Tries: Matt Cooper, Jamie Soward, Josh Morris Goals: Jamie Soward (2/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Overcast day in chilly Auckland, might be a bit damp underfoot. The Warriors with a few changes as reported. In particular Jerome Ropati being named in the run-on side. A late change for the Dragons with prop Jason Ryles added to the line up, Dan Hunt making way. Teams on the field. Warriors to kick off. KICK OFF!
4 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Centre Simon Mannering powers towards the line out wide on the Warriors left side and looks to be held back before team mates come in to push him over the goal line. Video Ref rules benefit of the doubt on the grounding. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Follows a penalty to the Warriors and repeat set. Warriors enjoying more possession and field position early on. New Zealand Warriors 6-0
11 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Hooker George Gatis scores under the posts, running off a beaut Sam Rapira pass close to the line. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Follows the Dragons conceding another penalty in their own half. New Zealand Warriors 12-0
13 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Jerome Ropati scores out wide on the Warriors left side. Follows a bust wide of the ruck from half way with Roptai backing up. Its all Warriors! Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 18-0
16 min: Warriors on the attack with a scrum feed from 20m out following a knock on. The bounce of the ball going the Warriors way following a kick through. Warriors then get another penalty and it looks like they'll take the shot for goal.
16 min: Back rower Ben Creagh (Dragons) injured in tackle and forced off.
19 min: PENALTY GOAL New Zealand Warriors Micheal Witt successful from right in front. New Zealand Warriors 20-0
22 min: Another penalty to the Warriors. Chase Stanley penalised for a lifting tackle. Penalties now favour Warriors 5-0. Possession favouring Warriors 72%
27 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Mannering is put into space out wide and deep in his own half, running over 80m, improving his position to score behind the posts. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 26-0
30 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Centre Matt Cooper runs the angle on to a pass from five eighth Rangi Chase to score next to the posts. Follows a Warriors handling error and the first real attacking opportunity for the Dragons. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. New Zealand Warriors 26-6
35 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Fullback Wade McKinnon runs through some terrible defence deep in his own half to run 90m, showing a clean pair of heels to score out wide. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt is right on target. New Zealand Warriors 32-6
39 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Great individual effort from halfback Jamie Soward on the stroke of half time, chipping ahead and the soccering the ball past the fullback to score under the posts. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. New Zealand Warriors 32-12
Half time Warriors 32-12 A couple of tries to the Dragons but the Warriors have been dominating the stats and the scoreboard. After 40 minutes, the Warriors enjoying 61% possession as well as the majority of field position. Hard to see anything but a Warriors victory, their attack has been outstanding. The Dragons need to seriously tighten up their defence wide of the ruck if they are to have any chance.
Second half underway...
News from the Dragons sheds is that Ben Creagh has recovered from a shoulder injury, is back on the bench and will take part.
41 min: Dragons get first opportunity of the second half with fullback Ben Hornby almost scoring out wide. Follows a handling error against Warriors prop Steve Price. Hornby unable to touch down with the defence forcing him out.
44 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Winger Josh Morris scores 10m in from touch after a Rangi Chase grubber kick early in the tackle count. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful. New Zealand Warriors 32-16
47 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Evarn Tuimavave crashes over next to the uprights. Follows a simple ofload from Witt on the last tackle, the Dragons defence again found wanting. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 38-16
63 min: Dragons manage to withstand a Warriors raid. Still 38-16 in favour of the home side (penalty count now 7-1).
65 min: Crowd announced: 10,037
66 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Michael Crockett scores out wide following some slick work along the backline. The Warriors hit 40. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful - the golden boot having kicked 8/8 so far. New Zealand Warriors 44-16
70 min: Dragons get two fairly soft penalties in a row and are on the attack. But the visitors are well off their game today and fumble the opportunity.
72 min: Great defence from the Warriors on a kick-chase, forcing Josh Morris back several metres into the in-goal.
74 min: Dragons come within a whisker of scoring. A Rangi Chase chip is regathered by Soward, the final pass to forward Adam Peek is forward and goes to ground, Peek touches down but's no try.
79 min: Warriors will get the last opportunity with a penalty in the final minute (penalties 8-3).
Full time: Warriors 44-16 Warriors too big, too fast and too smart for the Dragons today. The home side dominating for the majority of the match with 60% possession. The Dragons often woeful in defence but that takes nothing away from the Warriors who took full advantage and were sensational in attack. For the Dragons, backrower Ben Creagh made a strong return to the field after being injured while halfback Jamie Soward, five eighth Rangi Chase and fullback Ben Hornby did their best to keep their side in the match. The Warriors are celebrating the successful return of centre Jerome Ropati. The entire pack were outstanding with forward Evarn Tuimavave and hooker George Gatis each picking up four-pointers while lock forward Michael Luck was the Warriors top defender. Prop Steve Price was standout with plenty of hit ups and metres gained. In the backs, try scorers centre Simon Mannering and fullback Wade McKinnon were great in attack while five eighth Michael Witt's kicking boot was 100% accurate.