After being called soft last weekend by their coach, Warriors put together a solid 80-minutes to hold off a second half blitz by St George Illawarra, winning 18-12 in front of 13,924 fans at WIN Stadium.
Running into this week, the Dragons camp insisted that they weren't worried about their performances. Maybe after this afternoon they should. The Warriors turned up, ran harder, tackled better and put on three first-half tries to make it four losses in five contests for the Dragons, as the fans worry about another late-season fade out.
Credit to the Warriors though. Called soft by coach Stephen Kearney after their own capitulation against Titans last week. They look determined to settle the ledger, and take a giant leap into locking down their finals spot. They took their cues from talisman, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the fullback put in a huge shift of over 200 metres and some sublime footwork that left Dragons defenders clutching at air.
For the first 20 minutes, it was an even contest. Both teams traded sets, and Johnson piloted through a penalty goal. From there though, the Warriors forwards got on top, laid a platform for Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke to work as they started to get their second phase going whilst the Dragons had Matt Dufty sent to the bin for interference.
It created their first try as Isaiah Papalii stayed moving in the tackle, offloaded to Solomone Kata to spin across. Again, one offload destabilised the Dragons defensive line which allowed Luke, to burrow under defenders for a 14-nil lead.
Kata made it a first-half double as he put the icing on the Warriors effort. They poured down the field as the seconds ticked off to half-time with simple bodies in motion that left Euan Aitken, all alone and unable, to stop the rampaging Kata, as the Warriors looked like the side that blazed through teams in the first half of the season.
Half-time seemed to wake up the dozing Dragons, quick-fire tries to Cameron McInnes and Luciano Leilua got them back into the contest, but that's where their points ended. Chasing points, the one-time premiership leaders pushed the pass too often and tried going around the Warriors.
When the Saints had success it was through direct play from their forward pack, and two scoots on last-tackle options from Ben Hunt. Otherwise, it was another performance that will turn up the heat on the famous red v, who now have crashed out of the top four. They have four winnable games to finish the season, but need to heal their scars before the finals comes into the picture.
For the Warriors, it was the perfect response, they now bounce back to four points clear of the Tigers, and look to have secured finals football. If they bring a performance similar to this afternoon across the remainder, they may match the hype that surrounds the team from across the Tasman. That chance continues next Friday when they host Newcastle, while the Dragons need to arrest their slide down the ladder next week when they travel to ANZ Stadium and face last-placed Parramatta.