Warriors coach Stephen Kearney praised his side's courage to overcome the absence of key players and fight back after conceding the lead to clinch a gutsy 24-14 NRL win over Parramatta in Sydney last night.
The Warriors went into the game without injured halfback Shaun Johnson and inspirational captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who remained in Auckland for the imminent birth of his first child, but overcame the Eels four-tries-to-two at ANZ Stadium.
The understrength Warriors were reduced to 12 men late in the first-half after second-rower Isaiah Paplali'i was sent to the sinbin, but good defence saw them head to the sheds with a 12-2 advantage.
The Eels hit back with two tries to steal a two-point lead inside the last quarter, but the Warriors refused to fold with late tries to interchange forward Jazz Tevaga and outstanding hooker Issac Luke sealing the result for the visitors.
"I was really proud of the boys" said Kearney.
"We've had a pretty tough couple of weeks in terms of our personnel and not having all of our spine together.
"Rog was given until the last minute before pulling out and we opened well in the first half and had a man in the bin just before halftime. They came after us in the second-half really well and we got behind midway through that second-half they but the guys stuck at it.
"I was just really proud of the circumstances and situation that we faced and we ended up finishing the game pretty strong, so I was just really proud of their effort."
Kearney praised the mental toughness of fill-in No 7 Mason Lino who set his mind on overcoming an ankle injury suffered in last week's loss to the Sydney Roosters to produce another impressive display alongside stand-in skipper Blake Green.
In his fifth first grade outing of the season, the 24-year-old ran and kicked well, providing a nicely timed pass for David Fusitu'a try in the 10th minute and a well-placed cross-filed kick in the lead-up to replacement fullback Peta Hiku's four-pointer at the end of the first quarter.
"I gave him a call on Sunday night because it was a pretty significant injury," said Kearney.
"He was on crutches at the review on Sunday morning. So I rang him up on Sunday night just to give him a bit of a tip, if you want to call it that, just to get himself ready to play.
"He's a great young lad in that sense and set himself to play, as opposed to coming in the next day wondering whether he was going to play or not. So he's a really strong kid like that and he put himself in the picture tonight and was good alongside Greeny.
"In the second-half we made it pretty hard on ourselves with errors but again in the back end we just found a way."
Luke also deserved special mention, after the former Kiwi international made a brave return after one week out with a shoulder injury to lead the way for his team.
"He made 45 tackles tonight so that probably took some of the sting out of his running game but it didn't harm him with that last carry that he did to seal the game," said Kearney.
"The reason we didn't play him last week was he went back-to-back with his knee and shoulder so we just thought it was important to look after him. He's a tough kid and knows his body pretty well and hopefully he's got some more good games in him."
Kearney confirmed Johnson had gone through a fitness test on his injured ankle yesterday and is due to have another run tomorrow ahead of next Saturday's home game against South Sydney at Mt Smart Stadium.
Tuivasa-Sheck remains on baby-watch this weekend, and Kearney will be sweating on the child arriving in the coming days to ensure the new father-to-be is available to play the Rabbitohs.
"I hope it's not coming next Saturday at 7.30pm. But our thoughts are with him. It was pretty late notice and we tried to give him as late as possible but they're expecting your first child and (Tuivasa-Sheck's fiancé) Ash (Walker) wouldn't let him go which is understandable."
To get the day's top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here