League: Solomona hat-trick spurs Warriors to big win

Warriors 40
Bulldogs 22

A hat-trick to young winger Malo Solomona and a stunning first half scoring blitz kept the New Zealand Warriors on the fringe of the National Rugby League's top-eight with a 40-22 win over the Bulldogs tonight.

The Warriors rattled up six first half tries to lead 30-6 at the break, before staving off a late Bulldogs charge which saw them get within eight points with eight minutes remaining.

The visitors sealed it in the dying minutes with captain Steve Price diving over in the 77th minute then Solomona notching his third try just before the final hooter to make it three consecutive wins for the Warriors.

It was the 21-year-old's third NRL match and his first taste of tryscoring action.

In all, the visitors scored eight tries to four to leave them a point behind eighth-placed Penrith, while the Bulldogs languish second-last.

The Bulldogs badly missed star forward Sonny Bill Williams who was scratched on match morning with a lower back strain.

News of Williams' absence, which was only announced to the ANZ Stadium crowd of 12,973 minutes before kickoff, clearly affected both sides.

The Warriors brimmed with early confidence and the Bulldogs were simply awful in the first 40 minutes, missing 27 tackles to the visitors' five.

The Bulldogs' initiative, at Williams' suggestion, to allow free entry to fans showing a New Zealand, Tongan, Samoan, or Fijian passport drew in 2900 who packed the south-eastern corner.

But it seemed to spur on the Warriors instead as they raced in two of their first three tries in front of the roaring section.

It took just 80 seconds for the floodgates to open as the Warriors earned a repeat set of six and halfback Grant Rovelli sent a cut-out pass to impressive young centre Sonny Fai who crashed over in the left corner.

One of the Warriors' best Lance Hohaia then crossed near the posts after slick one-handed offloads from Brent Tate and Logan Swann.

Hooker Ian Henderson was a menace from dummy half and sparked several Warriors attacks up the middle.

When Solomona scored his first NRL try from a Hohaia run-around, it was 20-0 in the 25th minute and the Warriors were threatening their record winning margin against the Bulldogs of 26 points from 2001 and 2003.

Hazem El Masri opened the Bulldogs' account in the 32nd minute when a Daniel Holdsworth grubber hit the post, but Warriors prop Sam Rapira raced 30m to score from a Simon Mannering line break to cancel it out.

Solomona scored his second just before the break when another Warriors standout Brent Tate raced down the right and handled twice in the movement.

The Warriors had some anxious moments late in the second half as they dozed off and the Bulldogs finally held the ball and strung passes together.

The hosts scored twice in six minutes, El Masri scoring his second and Reni Maitua crashing through four Warriors defenders in the 72nd.

El Masri's goal made it 30-22, but Price led the Warriors home and the Warriors' playoff hopes remained intact.

- NZPA

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