The Warriors can put one hand on a berth in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership grand final with a victory over St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
Rank outsiders heading into their opening clash with pre-competition favourites Sydney Roosters, the Warriors defended their way to a super-impressive 10-4 victory – pulling off a series a bell-ringers throughout a brutal contest, as well as winning the battle on the ground.
The fact they pulled off the win on the back of a massively disrupted build-up due to a diverted flight was another mark of their resilience and determination.
Three hours sleep. Dinner at 1:30am. And a trip from Auckland to Sydney that took almost 30 hours. The crazy pre-match prep for @NZWarriors Women before their first NRLW match. Tough team. https://t.co/83Lkv8ssFX @nzheraldsport @nrl
— Michael Burgess (@mikeburgess99) September 13, 2018
Captain and five-eighth Laura Mariu, fullback Apii Nicholls, lock Louisa Gago and hooker Krystal Rota were standouts in a brilliant team performance.
Front-rower Anetta Nuuausala made her presence felt with a pair of thunderous tackles in the opening quarter before going off injured. She is out this week and has been replaced in the starting line-up by Crystal Tamarua.
The Warriors confront a Dragons outfit facing a do-or-die assignment after being humbled 30-4 by Brisbane in Round 1.
The Saints were underdogs heading into the Suncorp Stadium clash but the magnitude of their defeat was a shock, particularly given they boast two the of the Jillaroos’ best and most experienced stars in fullback Sam Bremner and second-rower Kezie Apps, plus Kiwi Ferns tryscoring machine Honey Hireme.
Hireme moves from wing to centre this week, while the Dragons also get Talesha Quinn back into their run-on back-row.
"I think he has similar values to me, he was real supportive and the girls are great. They are professional and they have welcomed me with open arms." – Kiwi superstar @HoneyHireme on why she chose the Dragons.
— The Dragons (@NRL_Dragons) September 14, 2018
Expect significant improvement from the Dragons this week, but they still lack the experience, firepower and class the Warriors possess across the park.
A repeat defensive effort from the Warriors will make things very difficult for the Saints, and if Tamarua and Aieshaleigh Smalley can lay another strong platform, spine quartet Mariu, Nicholls, Rota and Georgia Hale could have a field day against the team that didn’t show enough goal-line resolve last Sunday.
— NRL (@NRL) September 12, 2018
If they chalk up their second win and the Roosters go down to the in-form Broncos, the Warriors will have booked a grand final spot with one round still to play.