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The 2018 Warriors are the real MF-ing deal.

In one of the club’s gutsiest-ever performances, the Warriors outlasted the previously unbeaten St George Illawarra Dragons 20-12 despite a massive deficit in the possession and penalties departments.

The Warriors took most of their rare scoring opportunities to hold the lead for 77 minutes of an absorbing encounter, while constantly turning up to save countless threatening situations at the other end.

Issac Luke produced one of the best performances of his illustrious career, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck again led by example, the pack – headlined by workhorse Simon Mannering – was heroic, Anthony Gelling emphatically justified his call-up (and provided a huge smackdown for TWL’s criticism) and Mason Lino slotted in for Shaun Johnson like a veteran once again.

They received the rub at a few crucial junctures, but they also countered a fair bit of adversity – like the loss of Tohu Harris to a head knock midway through the first half and the sin-binning of Blake Green just before the break.

The Saints played well – but even they would have to concede the Warriors deserve to sit alongside them as the premiership’s benchmark.

The Warriors proved last week’s flat loss to Brisbane was a mere anomaly, responding with a win destined to go down in club folklore.

Lino’s charmed 2018 contribution at NRL level continued with a dazzling solo try in just the fourth minute, brilliantly picking up a tip-on from Adam Blair, stepping past Gareth Widdop and putting on a goosie to beat the Dragons’ cover defence to the try-line.

It was, dare we say, Johnson-like.

The Warriors passed several strenuous defensive tests on their own line in the first 20 minutes, featuring a pair of screaming David Fusitu’a bomb takes and a remarkable try-saver from the maligned (by us) Gelling on in-form opposite Euan Aitken.

They missed plenty of tackles but the Warriors’ scramble was superb.

An early 8-1 drubbing in the penalty count didn’t seem to deplete the home side’s energy, but they suffered huge blow in the 27th minute when Tohu Harris was KO’d by a brutal head clash with ex-Warrior Leeson Ah Mau.

Gelling – panned for a calamitous cameo against the Broncos six days earlier – then produced the ultimate redemption play, steaming onto a flat Blake Green pass and forcing his way over for a dream try.

Green was the victim of the torrent of penalties against the Warriors soon afterwards, copping 10 in the bin just before halftime, but the 10-0 scoreline was the manifestation of one of the most remarkable 40-minute displays the club has put out.

The Saints finally hit the scoreboard just before Green’s return, courtesy of a magnificent individual burst from halfback Ben Hunt.

The Warriors dodged a massive bullet – and Ken Maumalo a place in the hall of infamous gaffes – when a small James Graham knock-on saw a Tim Lafai try off a diabolical Maumalo intercept pass given the red light.

But the Dragons onslaught continued and it seemed only a matter of time until the Warriors cracked under the weight of possession and territory.

That was before Issac Luke came up with one of the great back-to-back trump plays.

The reborn hooker nailed a sizzling 40/20 then scythed through from dummy-half for a vital try, providing a 10-point buffer with 13 minutes left.

A nail-biting final period beckoned when Tariq Sims scored from close range to peg the score back to 16-12.

But the Warriors capitalised on a Kurt Mann error with a hot-potato sealer finished off by Harris’ replacement, teenage back-rower Isaiah Papali’i.

An equal share of the NRL premiership lead acquired, the Warriors juggernaut moves onto the next job – an Anzac Day showdown with the Melbourne Storm in just five days.

Bring it!




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