NRL: Warriors blow a big lead as Bulldogs bite

By Daniel Richardson

A general view as the Warriors take the field during the round nine NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canterbury Bulldogs. Photo / Getty Images.
A general view as the Warriors take the field during the round nine NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canterbury Bulldogs. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors 16
Bulldogs 24

Few teams know how to give up a lead like the Warriors.

After bombing a 16-point advantage, they went down 24-16 against the Bulldogs in Wellington tonight as the Auckland-based club brought a home game to the capital for the first time.

Up 16-0 after half an hour the Warriors slowly crumbled under the pressure of the Bulldogs' giant forward pack and slick work from Ben Barba and Josh Reynolds.

It was a disappointing result from an event that promised so much with a big crowd, great weather and a one-off Warriors strip adding to the spectacle.

Centre Konrad Hurrell and Sam Rapira (thumb) were late scratchings for the Warriors, which prompted a front-row reshuffle and handed Auckland prop Suaia Matagi his debut from the bench.

Promising youngster Carlos Tuimavave took Hurrell's spot in the centres and had a busy first half as he looked dangerous with ball in hand.

Playing in front of a solid crowd of 30,112, the Warriors opened the contest in entertaining fashion as big winger Manu Vatuvei scored his 106th try for the club in the fifth minute.

Recently the Warriors haven't been able to cross the chalk early on to settle the nerves, but Vatuvei's try, which came off the back of a Feleti Mateo grubber and some slick work from Glen Fisiiahi brought the large crowd in to the game.

Playing in a one-off black and gold strip to commemorate Wellington Rugby League, the Warriors played with direction and precision during the first half, while a lop-sided penalty count in their favour gave them a helping hand.

Russell Packer held himself up in the tackle and promoted an offload from Thomas Leuluai to run on to for another four-pointer in the 17th minute and when Fisiiahi crossed on the half-hour mark the home side had shot out to a 16-0 lead.

You can never count out those pesky Bulldogs though and when Michael Ennis scored with five minutes left in the first spell, Des Hasler's men finally found some momentum.

The Mexican Wave took off around the ground as the whistle blew for half-time and the sides went to oranges with the Warriors holding a useful 16-6 advantage.

But in Warriors country, leads like those are made to be blown and the Bulldogs further eroded the deficit when Kiwis winger Sam Perrett touched down early in the second spell and a fine Trent Hodkinson conversion from the sideline brought the score to 16-12.

The Warriors then had to absorb a sustained period of pressure before they finally made a rare foray in to the Bulldogs' half and started to get back in to the contest.

Bulldogs fullback Barba then injected himself in to the game at the right time as his try with seven minutes left drew the sides level before Hodkinson banged over a sideline conversion to give the Bulldogs a 18-16 advantage.

Barba's try had more than a hint of controversy to it as it looked like Shaun Johnson was obstructed in the lead-up but the video referee saw no reason not to award the four-pointer.

In the final minutes, Reynolds then put the game beyond doubt for the Bulldogs as he swooped on a loose ball to scamper 60 metres and score, which spoiled the Warriors' party.

Bulldogs 24 (Michael Ennis, Sam Perrett, Ben Barba, Josh Reynolds tries; Trent Hodkinson 4 goals) Warriors 16 (Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Glen Fisiiahi tries; Shaun Johnson 2 goals) HT: 6-16

- APNZ

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