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The Warriors will make their first NRL finals appearance against Penrith at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Saturday night after one of the most remarkable final-round top-eight scrambles in premiership history.

After briefly taking possession of fifth spot on the live ladder via their hard-earned 20-16 win over Canberra on Friday night, the Warriors returned to eighth as results went against them.

Penrith upset Melbourne 22-16, slumping St George Illawarra pulled off a 24-14 win against Newcastle and Brisbane swamped Manly 48-16, leaving the Warriors at the bottom of a four-way logjam for fifth spot on for-and-against.

At one stage it seemed certain the Warriors would instead be heading to Suncorp Stadium on Sunday to take on the on-fire Broncos. Their big win over the Sea Eagles was enough to secure a home final and put them on the exact same differential as the Panthers, who remained in fifth due to having a superior for-and-against percentage.

It was equally tight in the top half of the eight with Sydney Roosters, Melbourne, South Sydney and Cronulla all finishing level on 34 points – just one win ahead of the Warriors and co. – for top spot. The Roosters’ 44-10 demolition of Parramatta saw them clinch the minor premiership with a differential a mere eight points better than the Storm’s.

While an eighth-place finish is less than ideal – and the club will no doubt lament recent away losses to also-rans Gold Coast and Canterbury, as well as a controversial home defeat to the Sharks thanks to a forward pass – the Warriors can take confidence from the fact they are the best-performed team to ever finish in eighth spot.

Their 15-9 win-loss record with a +25 points differential would have been enough to finish at least sixth in each of the past 19 seasons. In several instances their record would have been sufficient to finish third.

The Warriors’ win over the Raiders also saw them equal the club’s second-highest win tally in a season, finishing with an identical 15-9 record in 2003. The minor-premiership-winning combination of 2002, who won 17 and lost seven of their 24 regular-season games, is the only Warriors side to outperform their 2018 vintage.

The Warriors’ women’s team’s campaign in the inaugural NRLW premiership will also kick off on Saturday, taking on Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium prior to the men’s match.


7:50pm AEST/9:50pm NZT, Friday, Sep 7 – Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ AAMI Park
5:40pm AEST/7:40pm NZT, Saturday, Sep 8 – Penrith Panthers v New Zealand Warriors @ ANZ Stadium
7:50pm AEST/9:50pm NZT, Saturday, Sep 8 – Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sharks @ Allianz Stadium
4:10pm AEST/6:10pm NZT, Sunday, Sep 9 – Brisbane Broncos v St George Illawarra Dragons @ Suncorp Stadium


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