Friday 16 April 8.30pm Westpac Stadium Wellington, NZ Crowd 13,772
The Canterbury Bulldogs nipped the Warriors with 2 early tries to centre Jamaal Lolesi down the right flank in the third and seventh minutes to shut the Warriors 12-0 at halftime. They did the simple stuff, hit ups, completions, kicked, muscled up in defence and forced decisions on the opposittion.
Three minutes into the second half Brent Webb put Stacey into a gap to score under the posts. At 6-12 the Warriors spirits had lifted until Willy Mason put his stamp on the game with a brilliant play in the 56th minute. He beat three defenders to pop a pass around the corner for Reni Maitua to score. Hazim El Masri converted to take the Dogs to 18-6.
Five minutes later Mason sent a signal marked urgent to the Kangaroo and NSW Origin selectors when he sprinted 30 metres to score off a Sherwin break after clever lead up by fullback Luke Patten and Andrew Ryan and lax defence by the Warriors. The Dogs were up 24-6 but the Warriors surged back with an awesome two man play in the 69th minute. Ali Lauitiiti broke the line then offloaded to Hame Lauaki who outsmarted 3 defenders as he stepped,switched the ball, fended off one and galloped 20 metres to score.
At 24-12 the Warriors threw the kitchen sink at the Dogs in a late flurry of attacks. Vinnie Anderson broke through with a try under the posts in the 76th minute to close the gap to 24-18 but the Dogs held them at bay. The Warriors were competitive, but short on confidence hence their timing and execution was off. They lucked out by undoing all the positives aspects of their game. However the upside is, mentally they're not far away from hitting their rythmn.
For the Bulldogs, Willy Mason, Luke Patten,Steve Price, the halves combination and the dominant centre pairing of Lolesi and Tonga all put in solid efforts. Sonny Bill and Matt Utai may have caught the Kiwi selectors eye for the test against Aussie on 23 April.
Once again Brent Webb not lacking in confidence was voted Warriors MVP. He put in such a brilliant effort that his kick returns and broken plays would have him in front for the most metres gained of his rivals for the Queensland State of Origin fullback spot. He must be in the Origin selectors frame. Like teamates Lauaki who had a huge game, Karl Te Mata who hits hard going forward and can take a hard hit, Tony Martin, Louis and Vinnie, Webb played with a purpose and was always in the hunt even if others were not.
Canterbury Bulldog 24 Jamaal Lolesi 2, Reni Maitua, Willie Mason tries; Hazem El Masri 4 goals Vodafone Warriors 18 Stacey Jones, Epalahame Lauaki, Vinnie Anderson tries;Sione Faumuina 2 goals. Halftime: Bulldogs 12-0.