Warriors ride the dark horse into Grand Final

THE New Zealand Warriors have produced their best performance of the season to secure a place in next Sunday's grand final; defeating the Storm 20-12 in front of a 28,580 crowd at AAMI Park.

The Warriors put on an inspired second half performance to take control of the match and dominate the yardage battle, keeping the Storm scoreless in the second half and pulling off the upset of the year.

However, it was the minor premiers who drew first blood, scoring early in the match through Sika Manu who strolled over the try line in only the fifth minute on the back of a penalty.  Cameron Smith converted the try to extend his side's lead to six.

A penalty to the Warriors in the tenth minute of the match provided the visitors with a great opportunity to hit back. The Warriors made the most of it with Shaun Johnson and Krisnan Inu combining to create a try for Bill Tupou in the 12th minute. James Maloney converted the try to level the scores.

An error by Billy Slater only minutes later provided the Warriors with more good field position and an opportunity to score back to back tries.

Once again the visitors did not waste time with Maloney slicing through the defence in the 16th minute to give his side the lead.

Both sides had their chances to add to their total as the half progressed, however, neither team was able to score until the 36th minute when Beau Champion ran 70 meters to add to his try tally. Smith added the extras to make the scores level again.

A penalty against Smith for a strip in the 39th minute gave the Warriors an opprtunity to hit back just before half time, the visitors did not take any risk, opting to take the two and secure the lead into the half time break.

After the break, it was all the Warriors, as they completed all their sets in the Storm half while the Minor Premiers struggled to get out of their own danger zone.

The visitors muscled up in defence and attack absolutely obliterating the Storm in the yardage battle and belting them all over the park.

Despite this dominance the Warriors struggled to get over the try line, with the Storm cover defence saving the day on several occasions. 

The Warriors were finally able to get over the line in the 77th minute after a brilliant pass by Shaun Johnson created a try for Lewis Brown. Maloney added the extras to put the game out of reach for the Storm with a minute to go.

Ivan Cleary will be happy with his team's determination and passion, but the Kiwis will need to step it up another notch to win the big one. For the Storm, they just could not keep up with the intensity of the Warriors in the second half.

Match Details
Melbourne Storm 12 were defeated by New Zealand Warriors 20
National Rugby League - Finals Week 3 - Saturday September 24, 2011 7:45pm
Venue: AAMI Park
Referee: Tony Archer and Matt Cecchin
Video Referee: Sean Hampstead and Chris Ward
Touch Judges: Dan Eastwood and Paul Holland
Crowd: 28,580
Halftime: Melbourne Storm 12 New Zealand Warriors 14

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Simon Mannering
2 Points - Shaun Johnson
1 Point - James Maloney (1 Try, 3 Conversions, 1 Penalty Goal)

MELBOURNE STORM (12)
Tries: Beau Champion, Sika Manu
Conversions: Cameron Smith (2/2)

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS (20)
Tries: James Maloney, Lewis Brown, Bill Tupou
Conversions: James Maloney (3/3)
Penalty Goals: James Maloney (1/1)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening folks and welcome to AAMI Park for the Grand Final Qualifier between the Minor Premier the Melbourne Storm and the 2011 season dark-horses the New Zealand Warriors.
Both coaches have announced a few late changes to their side. For the Melbourne Storm Rory Kostjasyn is out and will be replaced by Atelea Vea. For the Warriors prop Sam Rapira, hooker Aaron Heremaia and back rower and Feleti Mateo have all shifted from the starting side and onto the bench, with Russel Packer, Lance Hohaia and Elijah Taylor moving into the starting side.
1 min: James Maloney kicks off to bring the match under way!
1 min: The Storm make 50 meters on their first set before Cronk drills it down field.
2 min: The Storm put a lot of pressure on Maloney who grubbers the ball down field from 47 meters out from the Storm line. Slater gathers the ball and runs it back to within 20 of halfway.
3 min: The Storm finish their set deep in Warriors territory but Kevin Locke is reliable under Cronk's bomb.
4 min: A much better kick by Maloney to finish off the Warriors second set finds space before Quinn runs it back to 15 out from his own line.
5 min: Simon Mannering is penalised for hand in the play the ball, it was the last tackle and the Storm were on halfway, not a good time to concede a penalty.
7 min: TRY
Sika Manu takes advantage of some poor defence and strolls over for the opening try of the match, Cameron Smith adds the extras.
Melbourne Storm 6-0
8 min: Smith attempts a 40/20 on the third tackle but it doesn't make it to the side line and Locke is able to gather it and run it back to his own 30 before being tackled.
9 min: Three Warriors players try and kick the ball on the last before it finally goes forward down the field.
10 min: Warriors get a penalty 10 short of halfway.
11 min: Great cover defence by the Storm stops what looks like a certain try. The Warriors will still have another 4 sets up their sleeve from ten out.
14 min: TRY
Johnson puts up a cross field kick on the fourth and Inu is there to contest the ball in the in goal with Quin, Inu bats the ball back to his winger Tupou who scores. Maloney converts the try to make it an even ball game.
6 all
15 min: Slater drops Johnson's kick 15 meters out and the Warriors will have an opportunity to score back to back tries.
18 min: TRY
James Maloney slices through the Storm defence and strolls over for a fairly soft try. He converts his own try to extend the Warriors' lead.
New Zealand Warriors 12-6
20 min: A great set by Melbourne sees them threaten the Warriors' line on the last, but some scrambling defence saved the day for the visitors.
21 min: The Warriors gift Melbourne the ball 30 meters out.
21 min: Quinn kicks the ball on the last and it goes straight into the arms of Inu. Poor end to the set there.
22 min: Melbourne will get a 20 meter restart after the Warriors make 70 meters on their set.
23 min: Cronk goes to the air on the last from 40 out and just about brings rain and is too much for Vatuvei who knocks it on.
23 min: Cronk goes to the air on the last from 40 out and just about brings rain and is too much for Vatuvei who knocks it on.
24 min: Great read by Maloney who scoops up Widdop's grubber before running it back past half way.
25 min: Great goal line defence by the Storm to deny the Warriors.
26 min: Champion loses the ball 35 meters out from his own line.
27 min: Rapira loses the ball 23 meters out from the Storm line and the Storm are off the hook for now.
30 min: Maloney loses the ball 40 out from the Storm line on the fourth.
31 min: Cronk goes to the air on the last but Inu is there to take the ball meters out from his own line, Quinn tackles him in air to concede a penalty to take the Warriors out of their danger zone
35 min: Warriors are pinned for a forward pass 30 out from the Storm line just as they are starting to look dangeorus.
37 min: TRY
Melbourne score straight from the scrum after Cronks passes to slater who throws a sneaky inside pass to Champion who runs 70 meters to score. Smith adds the extras to level the scores.
12 all
38 min: Slater drops the ball 40 out from the Warriors line.
39 min: The Warriors get a penalty on the 4 from 20 out after Smith is pinned for a strip.
39 min: The Warriors get a penalty on the 4 from 20 out after Smith is pinned for a strip.
40 min: PENALTY GOAL
Warriors opt to go for the two and Maloney has no problems kicking the penalty goal and that's the half.
New Zealand Warriors 14-12
41 min: Tony Archer signals time on to bring the second half under way.
45 min: The Warriors will get a line drop out after a great set by the Warriors sees them on the attack early.
46 min: Cronk is there to clean up for the Storm and the Storm are off the hook for the moment.
47 min: The Warriors trap Melbourne in their own 30 after five tackles and Cronk's kick lands 40 out from the Warriors line and Locke runs it into Melbourne territory before being tackled.
49 min: Johnson throws a forward pass 20 out from the Storm line.
50 min: The Storm complete their set 40 out from the Warriors' line before Cronk puts up a bomb.
51 min: The Warriors are dominating the Storm in the meters battle here.
52 min: Slater makes a 30 meter kick return to put the Storm in good field position after the first tackle.
53 min: Storm will get six again 10 our from the Warriors' line.
54 min: Cooper Cronk puts through a poorly weighted grubber through on the third and it beats everybody over the touch line.
57 min: Champion loses the ball 40 meters out from the Warriors' line just as the Storm attack is looking dangerous.
60 min: The Warriors will get a line drop out after a great kick by Shaun Johnson. The Warriors are finishing each of their sets in Melbourne territory this half.
62 min: Matthew Duffie is just able to get the ball back into the field of play following a Maloney grubber into the in goal.
68 min: Beau Champion is penalised for a high shot on Kevin Locke 30 out from the Warriors' line.
69 min: Possible try to the Warriors here.
69 min: No try! The video referee found a knock on in the lead up to the try.
73 min: The Storm will get a scrum on half way after a double knock on.
75 min: Melbourne fail to make anything of their opportunity with Slater's kick going dead.
76 min: The Warriors will get a line drop out after Shaun Johnson's kick is too much for Melbourne.
79 min: TRY
Lewis Brown strolls over for a try after the Warriors spread the ball out wide through Johnson. Maloney adds the extras from the side line and that should be game.
New Zealand Warriors 20-12
80 min: Maloney kicks for the side line and there won't be time to pack a scrum.

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