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Warriors into Harold Matthews Cup finals

NZ Warriors Harold Matthews Cup rugby league
The NZ Warriors are off to the Harold Matthews Cup finals. PHOTO: NZ WARRIORS

Finals football has become a reality for the NZ Warriors in their first year in the Harold Matthews Cup (under-17) competition.


The Warriors swamped St George Illawarra 46-10 in their must-win regular season finale at Pukekohe’s Navigation Homes Stadium on Sunday, locking up a top-six berth.



With sixth-placed Manly Warringah being held to a 16-16 draw by the Central Coast Roosters on Saturday, the Warriors had been left with a win-and-you’re-in scenario if they were to seize sixth place and a spot in the finals, starting next week.


While they were coming off a 40-10 loss to Cronulla Sutherland last weekend, they feasted on the opportunity they had been handed by the Sea Eagles.


There were signs of nerves early on as they allowed the Dragons to score the first two tries of the match but, attacking with panache, the Warriors then scored four  tries on end through standoff Tyson Hansen, wing Ezekiel Davidson-Faaiuaso and props Hudsyn Frost and Gordon Afoa to take a 24-10 lead into the break.


They were ruthless in the second half, keeping the Dragons scoreless while adding four more tries through interchange half Boston Krone, second rower Dezman Laban, fullback Joseph Ratcliffe and wing Kairus Booth, who converted all but one of the eight tries for a personal haul of 18 points.


The Warriors’ fifth win in eight matches lifted them to 12 points, level with the Sydney Roosters but sixth on points for and against, setting up a Week 1 finals clash against third-ranked Parramatta Eels.



The Warriors produced a stunning turnaround in the space of eight days to beat the Newcastle Knights 26-12 in Sunday’s Round 4 New South Wales Cup match at Go Media Stadium.


Coming off a disappointing 4-42 loss to Canberra on the road, the Warriors were a rejuvenated side back on their own patch.


They made the worst possible start conceding a try in the opening minute but they rallied superbly to grind out their second win of the season.


Providing much of the magic throughout the match was fullback Ben Farr. He carved through for the Warriors’ first try before centre Moala Graham-Taufa went in off a Setu Tu ball to give his team a 10-6 halftime lead.


The opening stanza of the second half was a classic arm wrestle but at the 50-minute mark the Warriors imposed themselves on the scoreboard with two tries, first through wing Edward Kosi (50th minute) and then the irresistible Farr with his second five minutes later.


That extended the lead to 22-6 and it then became 26-6 with a Geronimo Doyle touchdown in the 72nd minute.


While the Knights had the last say it did little to detract from an impressive Warriors display, especially after conceding 80 points in their previous two matches.


They’re away to defending premiers the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium next Saturday. They had a win and two losses in the three matches they’ve played.


NZ Warriors NSW Cup rugby league
The NZ Warriors won their second straight match in the NSW Cup. PHOTO: NZ WARRIORS

After three heavy defeats in the opening three rounds, the Warriors extracted enormous encouragement from their 18-8 loss to top-four side Newcastle in Sunday's Round 4 Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) encounter at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart.


Returning to the competition for the first time since 2019, the Warriors were expected to face challenges as the club launched its long-term plan to create a multi-layered pathways programme featuring teams in the NSW Rugby League’s under-17, under-19 and under-21 competitions.


Coming up against clubs with well-established pathways systems, the Warriors fell to big defeats by Cronulla Sutherland, Melbourne and Canberra but showed real grit fighting their way back against the Knights.


After opening the scoring with a Sialetili Faeamani in the 16th minute they went set-for-set before going to halftime locked up 4-4.


Early in the second half, a Sio Kali try had them 8-4 ahead but a hot 10-minute period ultimately decided the result as the Knights scored three tries to stretch to an 18-8 lead.


The Warriors tightened up to resist any further damage to the scoreboard and kept pushing to the end in search of another try.


After taking some big hits in the first three weeks, the performance against the Knights offered promising signs, all the more so because a number of players from this year’s SG Ball Cup (under-19) squad were brought into the side for the first time.


Motu Pasikala was at fullback, Kali in the centres, Rodney Tuipulotu-Vea in the front row and Kayliss Fatialofa in the second row with another back rower Alvin Chong Nee included on the interchange.


The Warriors face the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Sydney next Saturday.



A much-changed Warriors side stayed close in the first half but could not stick with top-two team St George Illawarra in its final SG Ball Cup regular season outing at Pukekohe’s Navigation Homes Stadium on Sunday.


With finals football off the table, six of the Warriors’ under-19 regulars were promoted to assist their development, five to the club’s Jersey Flegg (under-21) side and another to the NSW Cup side.


That provided a chance to plan for 2025 by bringing in players from the wider squad to give them some game time and exposure to playing against elite players in their age group.


The Dragons brought some serious game into the contest, having won six from eight to lie second on the ladder. They duly made it seven from nine and did so emphatically in the end, winning 54-18.


There was some encouragement in the first half as the Warriors scored two converted tries to trail just 18-12 at halftime. But the Dragons were ruthless in the second half, piling on six tries to run away with the match.


The only joy for the Warriors was a second try for centre Hiraka Waitai-Haenga while Tallan Egan converted all three tries.

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