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Warriors' NSW Cup side upset Panthers

NZ Warriors NSW Cup rugby league
The NZ Warriors extended their NSW Cup unbeaten streak to five matches. PHOTO: NSW CUP

A youthful NZ Warriors side produced a stunning 22-10 upset win over the New South Wales Cup-leading Penrith Panthers at North Sydney on Saturday.

It was a day charged with emotion as the players wore black armbands in support of captain Kalani Going, whose great-uncle, the legendary All Black halfback Sid Going, passed away at the age of 80 on Friday.

In stretching their unbeaten streak to five matches, the Warriors moved up to fifth on the ladder on 13 points as they continued their strong revival following an indifferent start to the season.

They did so with a side radically changed from the one used in the 26-20 win over the Sydney Roosters in Round 10, with just two players remaining from the backline.

Of the 17 players, 11 players were eligible for the club’s SG Ball Cup (under-19) or Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) teams this season, while a 12th was a New South Wales Cup rookie in wing Compton Fuatimau.

From the lineup named on Tuesday, coach David Tangata-Toa had lost fullback Ben Farr, halfback Paul Roache and prop Zyon Maiu’u to the club’s NRL squad.

The Warriors, who defied a string of injuries and setbacks to draw 22-22 with the Panthers on April 27, relished their underdog status in Saturday’s rematch.

Tries to hooker Makaia Tafua and centre Moala Graham-Taufa gave them a handy 10-0 lead in a first half which also saw them suffer more adversity when teen centre Sio Kali was forced off the field with a leg injury.

The Panthers found a way back into the encounter with the first two tries of the second half to lock it up 10-10 but a double strike in the last 11 minutes sealed a 22-10 win for the Warriors.


First second rower Eddie Ieremia scored in the 69th minute, followed by fullback Motu Pasikala showing enormous strength when he held off multiple defenders to score; Pasikala also converted both tries to secure an outstanding 12-point victory.

A much-changed Warriors side fought well but was headed 20-10 by South Sydney in Saturday’s Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) catch-up match at North Sydney Oval.

The Round 5 clash had to be rescheduled after atrocious weather in Sydney forced it to be postponed last month.

The Warriors’ lineup originally named on Tuesday was modified significantly, with second rower Alvin Chong Nee moved to the centres and William Piliu brought in as his partner.

Sefanaia Cowley-Lupo was switched from the centres to halfback, Francis Tuimauga and Augustino Filipo both came into the starting pack from the interchange with Mikaele Ilaiu brought onto the bench.

The Rabbitohs, sitting in the top half of the competition, were on song in the first half, crossing for three tries in the first 23 minutes to lead 14-0. The Warriors worked a try for wing Raphael Sio, going to the break 10 points adrift.

The good work was undone when South Sydney nabbed a fourth try early in the second half to jump to a 20-4 lead but the Warriors kept competing and were rewarded with a Garry Tuilekutu try in the 59th minute.

Heading into the last 10 minutes of the match, there was time enough to stage a grandstand finish but the Rabbitohs denied the Warriors to hold on for a 20-10 win.


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