Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has labelled the 20-12 win over the Dragons one of the best in his coaching career.

That's a telling statement.

Especially given Kearney's background with the Kiwis — and their World Cup triumph in 2008, plus their memorable achievements in 2014 and 2015 — as well as his extended period at the Melbourne Storm and the Brisbane Broncos.

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It also speaks volumes, simply because Kearney normally doesn't.

The 45-year-old has become a master of down playing situations and achievements, and getting into hyperbole simply isn't in his nature.

But he couldn't restrain himself after Friday night's game, in summing up what had been a superb display from his charges.

Anthony Gelling scores a try. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
Anthony Gelling scores a try. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

When asked if the four tries to two victory was the best performance of his tenure at the Warriors, Kearney went a whole lot further.

"Not only here [with the Warriors], but this is right up there in terms of the situation that was facing the lads tonight," said Kearney.

"They showed a tremendous amount of courage...with the changes, 10 minutes in the bin and being up against the best side in the comp at the minute.

"The way they stuck in there, I'm really proud, it ranks up there, way up there. It had everything, in terms of the adversity that was chucked at the lads."

The Warriors had to cope with a testing set of circumstances.


Shaun Johnson was a late withdrawal after the captains' run, while Solomone Kata was also ruled out with injury.

Anthony Gelling celebrates his try. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
Anthony Gelling celebrates his try. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

Blake Green spent time in the sin bin either side of halftime — after a string of penalties — and key forward Tohu Harris didn't see out the first half due to concussion.

The Warriors had just 38 per cent of possession across the match, and got no favours from the referees, with a 13-5 penalty count in favour of the visitors.

"The guys found a way to keep the side with the best attack in the competition out — with 12 men at one point — so I was just so proud of how they went about their work," added Kearney.

"We spoke last week about commitment and attitude needing to improve and I thought they did that. Honestly this win is right up there for me, way up there."

From the opening minutes the Warriors looked like men on a mission.

They confronted the Dragons physically, and never really relented, with some punishing defence.

They pushed the boundaries with their line speed, though at times it felt the referees only had eyes for one team.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor, while conceding they were second best on the night, implied that the Warriors' approach may been a cynical ploy to break any flow or momentum the visitors built.

"They came here with a plan, they gave away a lot of penalties and defended their line really well...whether that was part of it or not I'm not sure," said McGregor.

"Their line speed was incredible and their scramble defence was the best from any side I have seen this year. But it was frustrating because of the constant stop-start nature of that first period."

Kearney denied it had been a deliberate tactic, but admitted the Warriors knew aggressive defence was the only option against the competition leaders.

"For the last six weeks they've had a good run with how they've gone about things, they're the best attacking team in the competition and have a spine that's playing really well," said Dragons.

"So for us to compete and challenge that, we had to put pressure on them and that was through a bit of line speed and really going after them. But it wasn't our intention to deliberately give penalties away."