NRL: Warriors aim to repeat upset

By Steve Deane

The Warriors celebrate after knocking out the Wests Tigers 22-20 in a surprise victory. Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors celebrate after knocking out the Wests Tigers 22-20 in a surprise victory. Photo / Getty Images

They've pulled off one of the greatest victories of their lives, now the Warriors must go to Melbourne and do it again - this time against the minor premiers.

Coming off a bye week, the Storm will be well rested and primed to book their grand final spot. Seeking a slice of redemption after the stripping of their titles for salary cap cheating, the Storm will be super-motivated.

The Warriors, by contrast, will be scrambling to recover from Friday night's lung-buster against the Tigers. Coming on the back of arduous trips to Brisbane and Sydney, the Warriors will be road-weary by the time they pitch up in Melbourne on Saturday night.

The chips are certainly stacked against them, but they wouldn't have it any other way, says Queensland Origin prop Jacob Lillyman, who has learned a fair bit about the importance of the underdog psyche to this team in recent weeks.

"It's very important for us, mate," Lillyman said after churning out 101 high-quality metres against the Tigers. "It is something I have learned coming over here [to New Zealand]. We seem to thrive on the underdog tag a lot more than the other end of the scale. We will greet that with open arms, go into enemy territory and look to take it off them.

"Obviously it is a really tough assignment. We're going to get a few pats on the back and that sort of thing but we've spoken about staying grounded and not getting too far ahead of ourselves. Melbourne have been the form team all year so it is not going to be an easy task. But we can take confidence out of the fact we have one of the better records against them and we got them down there earlier in the year.

"We'll certainly go into it with a bit of confidence."

Confidence, yes. Cockiness, no. If the opening week 40-10 drubbing by the Broncos hasn't ensured that, coming within three minutes of elimination by the Tigers on Friday night certainly will have.

The difference between the two matches came down to the Warriors simply not being prepared to go out on such a limp note.

Trailing heavily at halftime for the second week in a row, the Warriors made a pact that if they were to go down, they would go down swinging.

"We looked each other in the eye and told each other we were going to give it everything for that 40 minutes," Lillyman said. "If we could come in after fulltime and know we did our best, then that would be enough. Thankfully enough we got the result.

"We knew if we didn't go there and turn things around it would be a terrible way to go out."

While thrilled to have pulled off one of the great finals shocks, the Warriors were still livid about the refereeing of Jarad Maxwell and Shayne Hayne long after the final whistle.

Micheal Luck, the victim of an appalling stripping penalty that nearly decided the game late in the second half, was capable only of phrases that can't be repeated. Lillyman was more circumspect, admitting that battling against the odds made the victory even sweeter.

"It's frustrating that you can't do anything about it. All the 50-50 calls were going against us. It is hard to pick yourself up after that. What can you do? But we really hung in there and, credit to the character of the team, we believed in ourselves.

"I was talking to a few of the boys, it was definitely one of the best, if not the best, wins I've been a part of. It was backs against the wall and everything going against you. To hang in there and claw back into the game and win it in that fashion was an absolutely wonderful feeling."

Coach Ivan Cleary talked about wanting to bottle that feeling. The reality is the only way the Warriors can get it back is by pulling off another shock in Melbourne.

* The Warriors will have three grades in the Preliminary Finals with the Toyota Cup and NSW Cup sides already having booked a place after winning in the first week of the playoffs.

- NZ Herald

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