NRL: Warriors win thriller in Wellington

By Dale Budge

Warriors 24 Bulldogs 20
Tuimoala Lolohea and Issac Luke of the Warriors celebrate the win over the Bulldogs. Photo / Getty
Tuimoala Lolohea and Issac Luke of the Warriors celebrate the win over the Bulldogs. Photo / Getty

A much better offensive performance has powered the Warriors to a 24-20 win over the Bulldogs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington but it may have come at a hefty price.

Star fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck suffered a knee injury early in the game and did not return - scans later on Sunday will reveal the extent of the damage. The prize off-season recruit is the league leader in metres per game and would be a massive loss if he were to miss significant time.

"We are going to have to get scans," coach Andrew McFadden tells the Herald on Sunday. "It is a bit hard to tell at the moment. He is such a great player. Regardless of how long he is out it is going to be a loss for us.

"It is not looking good at this stage."

McFadden, under immense pressure all season, was happy, relieved and proud after his side's third win of the season.

"It was a challenging game; losing Roger early really hurt us but the way we handled it is something I am very proud of.

"We made it difficult for ourselves at the end but we found a way to win. It is very important for us to win those types of games."

The Warriors dominated the first quarter of the match as they took advantage of Bulldogs coach Des Hasler's decision to push regular starting props Aiden Tolman and captain James Graham to the bench. Sam Lisone and Ben Matulino got the better of the promoted David Klemmer and Tim Browne - the Warriors spending significant time in the Bulldogs red zone as a result.

The Bulldogs seemed to have a set plan to slow the Warriors down when defending their own line even if it meant conceding penalties. Having blown a number against the Sydney outfit referee Henry Perenara threatened to send a Bulldogs player to the sin bin before 20 minutes had expired if the infringing continued.

Shaun Johnson, back in his more familiar role of halfback this week, inspired two early tries for the Warriors as re-called winger David Fusitua and centre Blake Ayshford dotted down. The 8-0 lead could have been better had two tries to Solomone Kata not been ruled out with a forward pass and fumble over the line catching the attention of the officials.

Fullback Tuivasa-Sheck stayed down early in the game but, after getting some attention, remained on the park. The left knee gave way with his next touch and he hobbled from the field 20 minutes into the fixture.

It was from then that both coaches began to go to the bench and the Bulldogs began to take the ascendancy with the introduction of Tolman and Graham. Kiwi winger Sam Perrett was the beneficiary, scoring two tries within a couple of minutes of each other as the Warriors were caught short defending their own line. Rookie centre Kerrod Holland added a third try on the stroke of halftime.

The return of second-rower Bodene Thompson from injury had an immediate impact on the Warriors attack. His hole-running on the edge makes Johnson more dangerous and his presence on the right edge was a factor in the two first half tries. He helped create a bust early in the second half that gave Johnson an age to pick his spot for a cross-field kick that hit winger Jonathan Wright on the chest perfectly for a third try.

Tuimoala Lolohea had less than a quarter of a game in the halves having been moved there during the week but was forced to fullback to replace Tuivasa-Sheck. He was impressive with the bigger role and scored a classy solo try to push the Warriors in front 10 minutes into the second spell.

Ayshford added a second try with 17 minutes to play before Holland responded at the 75th minute mark to ensure a close finish.

Having played the Melbourne Storm on Monday night and then traveled across the Tasman, the Bulldogs were not anywhere near their best and fans will be questioning the front-office decision to take the game from Sydney to Wellington.

- NZ Herald

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