The New Zealand Warriors were almost perfect in their first success of the season, defeating St George Illawarra Dragons 18-nil in a one-sided contest this afternoon at Central Coast Stadium.
Considering all the obstacles thrown in the way of the Warriors in the last two months, this afternoon felt like manna from heaven for them. They completed 46 of 48 sets in the contest, controlled the game and shut out the disappointing Dragons to get off the mark for the season.
In the bright sunshine of Gosford, the Warriors got started quickly. A fumble from Dragons fullback Matt Dufty gifted Warriors rookie prop Jamayne Tuanoa-Brown a simple scoop and score for the first points. It was another fresh face in Eliesa Katoa off a sublime Kodi Nikorima pass making it 12-nil at the break.
Nikorima was a surprise reinclusion after the axing of Chanel Harris-Tevita but the former Bronco provided a try-assist then sliced through the Dragons defense in the 54th minute to create the chance. The five-eighth finished off the move to stretch the lead to 18-nil. Nikorima also kicked a penalty goal alongside two other conversions for a 10-point haul for the afternoon and justified his inclusion.
Looking at the sides, the Warriors looked the team that didn't have to upheave everything to get back to football. The Dragons looked uninspired, uninterested and unable to create much attack in the contest. Both Ben Hunt and Corey Norman were unable to take control and the Dragons spent the entire contest working the ball of their line.
The rare chance that popped up for the Dragons saw Josh Kerr spill it early in the count right after the restart. Rampaging winger Mikala Ravalawa saw the line wide open but the rugby league gods had one final cackle as the winger knocked it on diving for the line.
Pressure will mount on Paul McGregor with the now 0-3 start to the shortened season which might have the joint-venture club already looking towards another lost season with their big Queens Brithday clash against traditional rivals, Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs to come next weekend.
Today was about the Warriors though. Firstly based in Tamworth, moved into their Terrigal base recently and produced probably the best 80-minutes of football the New Zealand side has conjured up in recent seasons. Their passions showed in the swarm of support after denying Ravalawa late in the contest. This is a committed side that tackled themselves to a standstill and made their opposition look inferior.