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Warriors continue NSW Cup winning run

NZ Warriors NSW Cup rugby league
The NZ Warriors won for the seventh time in nine NSW Cup matches. PHOTO: NSW CUP

Three second-half tries including a Moala Graham-Taufa double carried the NZ Warriors to a solid 18-4 win over St George Illawarra in Saturday's Round 16 New South Wales Cup match at North Harbour Stadium.

In doing so they extended their impressive run of form to seven wins, a draw and just the one close loss to table-topping North Sydney in their last nine outings.


The Warriors now have 21 points after 15 matches and briefly held third spot before wins by the Canterbury Bulldogs and Newtown Jets pushed them back to fifth.

They went into the contest against the seventh-placed Dragons showing some changes to the lineup originally named.

Nganatatafu Vake, 19, who started the season in the SG Ball Cup and then moved up to the Jersey Flegg Cup, came into the centres, Ben Farr moved into the halves and Caleb Laiman was switched to the bench.

Hooker Makaia Tafua and second rower Maia Sands came into the starting pack with second rower Kayliss Fatialofa moving to the interchange.

Playing on home soil for the first time since May 12, the Warriors were unable to make a mark on the scoreboard in the opening 40 minutes despite some close calls; the only points coming through an unconverted Dragons try.

The second half was another story.

The incisive Graham-Taufa, who made his first NRL appearance as a Warrior against the Dolphins four weeks ago, struck within two minutes of the second spell starting, his pace too much for St George Illawarra’s defence as the home side opened up from long range.

And for his second he exploded out of dummy half powering his way past and through defenders for another superb try to help the Warriors to a 12-4 lead after 53 minutes.

In the 63rd minute, they had their third try, Tafua probing from dummy half, off loading inside to Farr and he cleverly evaded defenders to get the ball down.

Fullback Taine Tuaupiki was on target for the third time in three attempts for an 18-4 lead.

There might have been more points including a possible late try to halfback Luke Hanson but the Warriors closed the match out well in what was their best defensive effort of the season so far.

The result gave them the home and away double against the Dragons, following their 26-24 win in Wollongong on April 20.

Next Saturday they feature in a tripleheader ahead of the Warriors’ NRL clash against the Brisbane Broncos at Go Media Stadium.

Meanwhile, St George Illawarra produced a relentless performance in downing the Warriors 46-14 in Saturday’s Round 16 Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) clash at North Harbour Stadium.

After three consecutive games on the road, playing at home proved to be cold comfort for the Warriors as the Dragons took charge from the outset.

While the outcome delivered revenge for St George Illawarra after the Warriors’ upset them 28-22 in Wollongong in April, the Warriors fielded a side which had been heavily affected by players promoted to the New South Wales Cup side and others who were unavailable.

In fact, of the 17 players used in the Warriors' Wollongong victory only seven remained for this contest.

That coupled with the gruelling schedule caught up with the Warriors as they conceded four first half tries to trail 0-24 at the break.

The deficit was 0-30 within minutes of the resumption before an Etuate Fukofuka try provided some relief for the Warriors only for the Dragons to step it up again with another three tries to shoot out to a 46-6 lead.

The Warriors finished on a positive note with late tries to halfback Cassius Cowley and centre Sialetili Faeamani to complete the scoring on a challenging day.

They're home again next Saturday against the Raiders - this time at Go Media Stadium - in the first leg of a tripleheader finishing with the NRL clash between the Warriors and the Broncos. 


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