The Warriors are one of the few current teams to have crafted a winning record against the Sydney Roosters, but the Tricolours proved too strong when the Auckland-based club qualified for a historic grand final appearance in 2002. The teams have produced many outstanding clashes since, however, and the Roosters’ strong Kiwi contingent has provided their rivalry with an extra edge.
Overall record: Played 39 – Warriors won 22, Sydney Roosters won 16, draws 1; Sydney Roosters scored 883 points, Warriors scored 742 points.
Biggest wins: Sydney Roosters – 58-6 at Sydney Football Stadium, 2004; Warriors – 42-16 at Mt Smart Stadium, 2006.
Longest winning streaks: Warriors – 5 matches (2008-11); Sydney Roosters – 3 matches (2004-05).
Finals: Played 2 – Sydney Roosters won 1, Warriors won 1.
Grand Finals: Played 1 – Sydney Roosters won 1.
Most appearances: Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters) – 20; Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 20; Stacey Jones (Warriors) – 18; Luke Ricketson (Sydney Roosters) – 17; Mitch Aubusson (Sydney Roosters) – 16; Craig Fitzgibbon (Sydney Roosters) – 16; Ben Matulino (Warriors) – 16; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 16.
Most tries: Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters) – 13; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 12; Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters) – 9; Jerome Ropati (Warriors) – 8; Stacey Jones (Warriors) – 7; Craig Wing (Sydney Roosters) – 7.
Most points: Craig Fitzgibbon (Sydney Roosters) – 112; James Maloney (Warriors and Sydney Roosters) – 71; Stacey Jones (Warriors) – 56; Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 52; Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters) – 52; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 48; Braith Anasta (Sydney Roosters) – 44; Ivan Cleary (Sydney Roosters and Warriors) – 44.
1995-2002 – Warriors with the edge
The rebranded Sydney City Roosters had spent big and were beginning their climb back to respectability when the Auckland Warriors joined the premiership in 1995. Their first visit across the Tasman resulted in a 26-22 loss after they had led the Warriors 12-0 during the first half, while both sides ultimately finished tied with North Sydney for eighth spot but missed the finals on for-and-against.
The clubs traded wins for several seasons, neither side able to piece together consecutive victories despite the Roosters’ newfound heavyweight status and the Warriors’ struggles. The Warriors prevailed 26-16 in the opening round of 1999 in a fiery match that saw Ali Lauiti’iti sent off for a high tackle and Brad Fittler marched, and Andrew Walker and Tony Tuimavave sin-binned, for their roles in the ensuing wild brawl. Reaching the finals for the first time in 2001, the Warriors downed the Roosters – Grand finalists a year earlier – at home and away, before notching a third straight win early in 2002.
2002-05 – Roosters rampant
The in-form Roosters walloped the Warriors 44-0 in Round 24 of the 2002 season, but the Aucklanders nevertheless finished as minor premiers a fortnight later with the Tricolours in fourth. The big, physical sides came together in the Grand Final after gripping preliminary final successes respectively.
Grand Final, 2002 – Roosters break title drought with second half surge
The Sydney Roosters’ composure and aggressive defence were the catalysts for an ultimately convincing grand final victory over the Warriors, prevailing 30-8 to secure the club’s first premiership in 27 years. After a tense, see-sawing first quarter, Shannon Hegarty finished off a 70-metre movement to put the Roosters on the board in the 23rd minute, backing up a sideline break by Brett Mullins. The Warriors kicked a penalty to narrow the halftime score to 6-2, and grabbed a shock lead six minutes after the break when Stacey Jones scored one of the great individual tries, a spellbinding 40-metre effort that left a string off Roosters defenders in his wake. Brad Fittler swung the momentum with a 40-20 kick before putting Craig Wing over in the 57th minute. A questionable hit by Warriors enforcer Richard Villasanti on a prone Fittler left the Roosters skipper dazed and bloodied, but it sparked the Tricolours into action again. Adrian Morley and Peter Cusack reeled off punishing tackles on Villasanti soon afterward, before Craig Fitzgibbon scored to give the Roosters an imposing 18-8 lead with 16 minutes to go. The Warriors’ resolve had been broken, and bench forwards Chris Flannery and Bryan Fletcher went over to complete an emphatic triumph.
The teams had to wait until the penultimate round of 2003 for the Grand Final rematch, but it was a cracking contest that had big ramification on the finals picture. The lead changed hands six times at the SFS before a try by Warriors winger Francis Meli levelled the scores two minutes from fulltime and Brent Webb’s conversion sealed a 26-24 victory. The result gave the Warriors a stranglehold on sixth spot, while it cost the Roosters the minor premiership; both sides’ title aspirations were eventually thwarted by Penrith.
The Warriors battled on and off the paddock in 2004, their season reaching a harrowing flashpoint after being belted 58-6 by the Roosters. Coach Daniel Anderson, who had led the Warriors to unprecedented success over the previous three seasons, stepped down in the wake of the loss. The Roosters overturned a 12-0 scoreline to down the Warriors 30-24 late in the season in a match perhaps best remembered for Awen Guttenbeil’s monster hit on Roosters forward Ned Catic, after which the Warriors backrower slapped Catic on the chest and screamed in his face.
2005-11 – Warriors ruffle feathers
After a low-scoring loss early in 2005, the Warriors lost just one of their next 10 matches against the Roosters. The run of success began with a remarkable comeback at the SFS, overhauling a 14-point deficit with 20 minutes left to win 24-22 – a character-filled win after the Warriors had three tries contentiously disallowed earlier on. Jerome Ropati scored four tries in a resounding 42-16 win late in 2006.
Round 21, 2007 – Classic draw hailed as one of the greatest matches ever
The resurgent Sydney Roosters and the finals-bound Warriors fought out a golden point draw that was heralded as one of the modern era’s greatest matches at the SFS. The Warriors fought back from 16-0 down to lead 18-16 at halftime, and had charged to a 30-18 advantage by the time their centre Simon Mannering was controversially sin-binned. The Roosters scored twice to level the scores while the Warriors were a man short, before Braith Anasta nailed a 38-metre field goal to nudge the home side in front in the dying minutes. But the Warriors regained possession from a one-on-one strip and five-eighth Michael Witt landed an equalising one-pointer with 17 seconds on the clock. The frantic, thrilling golden point period failed to produce a scorer and the classic encounter fittingly finished 31-all. The accolades flowed for the Warriors and the Roosters in the wake of the rivals’ extraordinary draw. The Immortal Bob Fulton and Roosters supremo Nick Politis each described the game as one of the finest modern-day contests – a statement free of hyperbole that was echoed by virtually everyone that witnessed the 90-minute rugby league masterpiece.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall, one of four future or current Kiwi internationals in the Roosters side, scored a hat-trick in a 38-12 victory midway through 2008, but the Warriors turned the tables during the finals.
Semi-Final, 2008 – Warriors’ finals charge gains momentum
The eighth-placed Warriors followed up their history-making qualifying final defeat of Melbourne by claiming another top-four scalp, eliminating the Sydney Roosters with a 30-13 victory at Mt Smart. The Roosters led 13-6 halftime after Anthony Minichiello was awarded a controversial penalty after opposing fullback Lance Hohaia – who scored the first try of the match – grabbed at his arm during an in-goal chase for the ball. The Warriors rallied admirably, Hohaia gaining quick redemption with his second touchdown five minutes into the second half. Superb close-range tries to Ian Henderson and Manu Vatuvei were followed by an 80-metre intercept effort by winger Aidan Kirk to seal the rousing win and a preliminary final berth.
Round 16, 2010 – Courageous Locke plucks Roosters
In rainy, freezing conditions at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium, the Sydney Roosters led the Warriors 18-8 with five minutes to go, but a powerhouse try to Manu Vatuvei kept the Warriors hopes’ alive. Young winger Kevin Locke had already scored a memorable first half double, and toed a Lance Hohaia grubber kick ahead from near halfway in the final minute of play. Displaying electrifying pace, Locke narrowly won the race to the ball ahead of Roosters speedster Phil Graham and planted the ball as his torso was simultaneously bent around the goalpost. Replays showed Locke had successfully scored the gutsy leveller, while James Maloney added the simple conversion after the siren to win a thrilling encounter 20-18. Locke’s bravery cost him two weeks in the injury ward, but earned a place in club folklore.
2011-14 – High-quality showdowns as Roosters claw back
The Roosters broke a five-match losing streak – and a seven-year drought at the SFS – with a 13-6 win midway through 2011. The clubs chalked up a win apiece in both of the 2012-13 seasons. In the latter season, Roosters recruit Sonny Bill Williams (one of six Kiwis in their line-up) returned to Eden Park just 18 months after playing in the All Blacks’ World Cup final victory there and featured in a 16-14 win. The Warriors clawed back from 16-0 down in the Round 2 clash, but Shaun Johnson, who kick-started a comeback with a 90-metre try, missed a late conversion that could have sent the match into golden point.
The Warriors scored a stunning 23-12 victory over the high-flying Roosters in Sydney three months later, holding the dangerous Tricolours – who snapped up Warriors playmaker James Maloney in the off-season – scoreless after the break to overturn a 12-10 halftime deficit in a match laced with unforgettable moments: Johnson’s incredible chase and tackle on a runaway Michael Jennings; Williams’ tackle-busting runs and phenomenal offloads that turned a 10-point deficit after 35 minutes into a halftime lead; fullback Glen Fisiiahi’s 90-metre try and remarkable try-saving strip on Kenny-Dowall; and long-striding Manu Vatuvei’s brilliant 95-metre runaway try to seal the result.
The Warriors’ finals aspirations suffered a savage blow the following season when they hosted the Roosters in Round 24, though, putting in one of their worst performances of the year in being crushed 46-12 by the rampant defending premiers.
The Roosters snatched a 25-21 win at Mt Smart in 2015. Johnson had levelled the scores with a 77th-minute field goal, but Blake Ferguson crossed in the corner with less than a minute to go. The Warriors went on a three-match winning streak following that heartbreaker before meeting the Roosters again in Sydney, but they were subdued 24-0 by the eventual minor premiers.
Gun fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck switched from the Roosters to the Warriors ahead of the 2016 season and came back to haunt his old club with a sizzling golden point try – set up by Tuimoala Lolohea – to steal a 32-28 win in Gosford.
Back on home soil (and with RTS in the casualty ward) the Warriors grafted out a 12-10 win over the Tricolours 10 weeks later to secure two wins in a season in the rivalry for the first time since 2009.
Despite finishing 13th while the Roosters surged back to second, the Warriors snared another heart-stopping victory in 2017, with a last-minute penalty goal to Shaun Johnson sealing a 14-13 success.
Despite the late withdrawal of halfback Shaun Johnson for the Warriors’ Round 4 trip to take on the Roosters in 2018, the rank underdogs carved out a stunning 30-6 win over the heavyweights. Johnson’s replacement, Mason Lino, starred with a try and seven goals in one of the Warriors’ most memorable wins over recent years, which carried them to a 4-0 record.
THEY PLAYED FOR BOTH CLUBS
Quentin Pongia: Canberra premiership winner and New Zealand Test stalwart Pongia joined the Warriors in 1998, playing six Tests against Australia and Great Britain (captaining his country in four of them) that year, but he linked with the Roosters in ’99. Pongia’s atrocious judiciary record and subsequent injuries meant he played just 43 games in three seasons at Bondi, though he did extend his international record to 34 appearances.
Terry Hermansson: Canterbury (NZ) prop Hermansson carved out a fine career after debuting for South Sydney as a 25-year-old in 1993. He made his Kiwis Test debut a year later before playing 66 games for the Roosters from 1995-97. After another one-year stint with the Rabbitohs, the front-row strongman joined the Warriors and played 39 games for the club in 1999-2000.
John Simon: Illawarra and NSW Origin half Simon was a big-money recruit for the Roosters in 1996, but the presence of Adrian Lam saw him leave to join Parramatta in 1997. Simon linked with the Warriors midway through 1999 – captaining the club in just his second appearance – and played 32 games before finishing his career at Wests Tigers in 2001.
Robert Mears: Wholehearted hooker Mears began his career with the Roosters, playing 10 games in first grade from 1994-96. After two seasons at Canterbury, Mears enjoyed a breakout season with the Warriors in 1999 and won the club’s player of the year award in 2000. After 40 games for the Warriors, Mears linked with Wests Tigers for a three-season stay.
Nathan Wood: Diminutive but incredibly versatile, former Balmain utility Wood played 78 games for the Roosters from 1995-2000. Best suited to the halves or hooker, Wood played 17 games for the Warriors in 2001 – including the club’s finals debut against Parramatta – before rounding out his career in Super League.
Ivan Cleary: An outstanding fullback/centre, Cleary was also one of the game’s ace goalkickers. Following strong stints with Manly and Norths, he spent three seasons with the Roosters (1996-99) and broke the all-time season pointscoring record with 284 points in ’98. Cleary was an outstanding buy for the Warriors after an injury-plagued initial 2000 season, scoring a club record 242 points in ’02. He retired after their Grand Final loss to the Roosters that year. After a successful grounding as a coach in the Roosters’ lower grades, Cleary took over the Warriors’ NRL post in 2006, taking the club to the 2011 Grand Final before being poached by Penrith. Surprisingly axed by the Panthers at the end of his fourth season in charge, Cleary took over at Wests Tigers in 2018.
Todd Byrne: ‘Skinny’ Byrne is predominantly remembered for being run down by Penrith’s Scott Sattler in the 2003 Grand Final, but he gave good service to the Roosters in 62 games from 2001-04. Linking with the Warriors, the slender three-quarter scored 21 tries in 43 games across three seasons.
Vince Mellars: Wellington-born centre Mellars played seven games for the Warriors in 2003-04 before linking with Cronulla. He subsequently joined the Roosters and played a career-high 12 games in 2006, but was not sighted in the NRL thereafter and later resurfaced in Super League in 2010.
Ian Henderson: Hooker/lock Henderson began his NRL career with seven games for the Roosters in 2003-04. After stints with Parramatta and Bradford, he joined the Warriors for a colourful three-season stay that garnered 65 games and a Scotland debut. Henderson returned to Super League in 2011, but later came full circle by joining the Roosters in 2016, where he career came to an end courtesy of a broken leg after two games.
James Maloney: Dynamic half Maloney debuted for Melbourne but was a virtual unknown when he joined the Warriors in 2010. He made a monumental impact as an ultra-competitive playmaker and clutch goalkicker, helping spearhead the club’s drive to the 2011 Grand Final. He moved to Bondi Junction in 2013 was outstanding in the Roosters’ premiership triumph, scoring 252 points and starring in the grand final victory. Maloney repeated the dose after joining Cronulla in 2016, steering the club to its first title, before joining Penrith in 2018.
Sio Siua Taukeiaho: A member of the Warriors’ 2011 NYC Grand Final victory, the Otara Scorpions junior made a solitary first grade appearance for the Warriors in 2013. The dynamic forward was snapped up by the Roosters and made his 50th appearance for the club back in his hometown in 2017. A Test debutant for Tonga and New Zealand in 2015, Taukeiaho was outstanding for the former during the 2017 World Cup.
Suaia Matagi: Rock-hard prop Matagi became a cult hero at Mt Smart after overcoming a troubled background to debut for the Warriors as a 25-year-old in 2015. Matagi played 36 games for the club before joining the Roosters midway through 2015 and making seven appearances. A Samoa and New Zealand Test rep, Matagi has enjoyed stints at Penrith and Parramatta since.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck: Otahuhu junior Tuivasa-Sheck emerged through the grades with the Roosters and became an instant sensation after being handed an NRL debut as a 19-year-old in 2012. A winger in the Roosters’ 2013 grand final win, RTS took over from club legend Anthony Minichiello at fullback in 2015 but joined the Warriors at the end of that season after 84 games in the tricolours. The 11-Test Kiwi’s first season with the Warriors was cut short by injury after just seven games, but he was installed as the club’s new captain ahead of the 2017 campaign winning the Warriors’ Player of the Year award that year before leading them in a history-making start to 2018.