The Warriors make their long awaited return to the NRL finals against Penrith on Saturday. They have qualified for the finals on seven previous occasions since 2001. Michael Burgess looks back on their six most memorable playoff matches.

6. Warriors 30 Roosters 13, Auckland, 2008

A capacity crowd at Mt Smart produced a seething, turbo-charged atmosphere, and the team responded with a brutally physical performance.

Prime Minister Helen Clark was among the 25,500 fans that watched the Roosters get blown away in the second half, after the visitors held a 13-6 halftime lead.

The enduring memory was Ruben Wiki's fearsome charge into Sia Soliola, while Lance Hohaia and Manu Vatuvei stood out for the Warriors.


5. Warriors 22 Tigers 20, Sydney, 2011

One of the most unexpected performances in Warriors' history.

After being thumped 40-10 in Brisbane the week before, the Auckland club made the most of their second chance.

They retrieved an 18-6 second half deficit, capped by Krisnan Inu's miraculous try in the 78th minute.

It was also the last playoff match for Benji Marshall as a Tiger, and his error opened the door for the Warriors' final surge.

Bill Tupou and Ben Matulino jump on Feleti Mateo (16 September 2011). Photo / Photosport
Bill Tupou and Ben Matulino jump on Feleti Mateo (16 September 2011). Photo / Photosport

4. Warriors 48 Bulldogs 22, Sydney, 2003

Few who watched this game, whether live or on television, will ever forget it.

It was a sudden death finals match, but the Warriors played like it was an exhibition game, and scored some spectacular long range tries.

They destroyed the Bulldogs on the edge, with Sione Faumuina and Ali Lauitiiti particularly prominent, with a mix of pace, power and brilliant handling.

Francis Meli crossed for five tries, which remains a Warriors record.


3. Warriors 16 Sharks 10, Sydney, 2002

This was the day the Warriors came of age.

After overpowering the Raiders at Mt Smart two weeks earlier, Daniel Anderson's team faced a preliminary final against a Sharks team that featured Brett Kimmorley, Greg Bird, Jason Stevens and a young Paul Gallen.

Owner Eric Watson had paid for 10,000 tickets for Kiwis living in Sydney, which ensured great support.

It was a match of almost unbearable pressure, finally sealed by John Carlaw's swoop on a Stacey Jones grubber in the 75th minute.

John Carlaw scores a try (29 September 2002). Photo / Photosport
John Carlaw scores a try (29 September 2002). Photo / Photosport

2. Warriors 18 Storm 15, Melbourne, 2008

Michael Witt scored the greatest try in the club's history.

With two minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, the Warriors trailed the minor premiers and were camped on their own 22 metre line.

"There is nothing left in the Warriors at the moment…it is a long way to travel," said Channel Nine commentator Peter Sterling.

But somehow they did it. From 75m out, Jerome Ropati beat Israel Folau to engineer a break for Manu Vatuvei, who dragged in three defenders before setting up Witt.

"Put the ball down son!" Michael Witt scores against the Storm. Photo / Getty

It was the first time the eighth placed team had beaten the minor premiers.

1. Warriors 20 Storm 12, Melbourne, 2011

Simon Mannering still rates this as the most complete performance in the club's history, and it's hard to dispute that.

The Warriors faced a formidable Storm side, with Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk at their peak, as well as Jesse Bromwich, Gareth Widdop and Kevin Proctor.

But the Auckland club produced a clinical, composed performance, matching the Storm in the grind before Shaun Johnson's sidestep, jink and outrageous dummy created space for Lewis Brown to dive over and seal the result. ​