By PETER JESSUP
Warriors 34 Northern Eagles 30
Who would be the Warriors coach?
The team did more than the improbable last night at Ericsson, clawing back a big deficit for a last-gasp win over the Northern Eagles granted by a rare refereeing call in their favour.
When Jason Death scrambled out from dummy-half to push at the line the Eagles believed he fell short.
Referee Matt Cecchin was whistling his first 40 minutes of premiership football after starter Steve Clark failed to return from the halftime break with a hamstring strain.
Clark had seen the Eagles' physio before the match for a check on the tightening muscle, but had to defer to Cecchin, making his NRL debut after 15 years as a referee and two-dozen first division games.
Cecchin said he saw the ball on the line, but was not clear how it got there, so asked video ref Mick Stone to check.
Stone reviewed the play from all available angles then sent it back for Cecchin to decide.
"There was no double-movement but I couldn't tell if the ball hit the line. Of course, it only has to touch the line and it's a try," Stone said. "I asked Matt if he had an opinion and he said he did."
It was an opinion the crowd of 12,292 liked.
Eagles coach Peter Sharp was scathing, pushing the NRL's fine envelope beyond bursting as he accused the officials of incompetence.
His players said Death was short.
The club would be complaining through official channels, Sharp said.
Warriors opposite Daniel Anderson admitted he had little voice left, but what he could get out was that Death's effort was a try, "absolutely."
He always thought they could win. "We were punching away, not much going our way, but we poured it on in the last 20 minutes."
Four tries to be exact. They had gone to the break 12-24 down after leaving big defensive holes that Goeff Toovey from dummy-half and Brett Kimmorley at half used as highways.
Kevin Campion scored with a tap and regather and Clinton Toopi stood up Ben Walker for the Warriors' points.
They looked okay, composed, built pressure rather than tried miracle balls, but left those holes.
In the second half, Sharp wanted his side "to put them to bed," but everything went 180 degrees.
The Eagles blew it, the Warriors won with composure and determination, along with the ball-playing flair they bring towards the end of games as oppositions tire.
Still, the home side had time to make things difficult, a knock-on in goal with four minutes to go and a penalty against Motu Tony for submitting voluntarily in the tackle after the hooter went allowing the Eagles last-gasp chances.
Sharp's tantrum ignored the fact his side had conceded three tries and conversions before the Death-knell. The Warriors were up and looking the winners, the Eagles were tired after enjoying a first-half possession imbalance that was turned around after the break.
Among Anderson's weapons was 19-year-old Iafeta Paleaaesina, a surprise starter after injury and suspension robbed the side of size.
The Hibiscus Coast prop made two big carries in the same set to send Francis Meli away, the Warriors scoring off following plays.
"I'm sure you'll see him again, but I don't think it will be next week," Anderson said."He was out on his feet in about 30 seconds."
Anderson rated the comeback as better than the six late minutes that produced a draw against the Bulldogs.
"We were more composed, we built that win.
He had never seen Stacey Jones so tired, rated Monty Betham for playing 80 minutes at top level and Wairangi Koopu for interchange backs to forwards and back again.
Jones said he always though they would score in the closing minutes and if Death had been told to play the ball if he had not been given the points "we had a move ready to go."
And that summed it up. They really were ready.
The win pushed the Warriors into sixth place, temporarily.
Cecchin said he "loved" refereeing his first match.
"I've been working 15 years for that moment, and it just went too quick."
(Kevin Campion, Clinton Toopi, Monty Betham, Henry Fa'afili, Ivan Cleary, Jason Death tries, Ivan Cleary 5 con)
(Phil Bailey, Brett Kimmorley, Steve Menzies, Brendon Reeves tries, Ben Walker 4 con, 3 pen).