WARRIORS’ 25 GREATEST GAMES

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There’s only one more NRL-less weekend to get through before the 2020 season gets back underway – and you’ve probably seen enough classic matches on Sky Sports and FoxSports to last a lifetime.

Nevertheless, we’ve gone to the trouble of ranking the best 25 Warriors games from the club’s first 25 seasons.

25. ROUND 7, 2019: MELBOURNE STORM 13 DEFEATED WARRIORS 12 AT AAMI PARK
The Warriors were controversially denied a massive upset victory, but their severely depleted line-up won back many admirers with a gutsy display in a 13-12 Anzac Day loss to Melbourne. The out-of-form Warriors, widely written off prior with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green and David Fusitu’a absent, took an early lead when Tohu Harris – retrenched to the halves – laid on a try for fellow former Storm star Adam Blair. The hosts hit the lead for the first time three minutes into the second half, but the Warriors responded almost immediately as Ken Maumalo scored courtesy of brilliant lead-up work from fullback fill-in Peta Hiku. The underdogs defended their two-point advantage heroically, until a highly contentious play-the-ball penalty (NRL head of football elite competitions Graham Annesley later admitted it should not have been awarded) allowed the Storm to level up with four minutes left. Melbourne halfback Brodie Croft then nailed the match-winning field goal from 32 metres out to break the Warriors’ hearts. Harris, Hiku and centre Patrick Herbert – who produced arguably the greatest-ever first-grade debut by a Warriors player – earned special praise after a valiant team effort.

24. ROUND 25, 2010 – WARRIORS 36 D BRISBANE BRONCOS 4 AT MT SMART STADIUM
The biggest home crowd of the season (21,627) turned out to farewell injured retiree Steve Price and his teammates produced a fitting tribute, defying the damp, cold conditions with four razzle-dazzle tryscoring movements from near halfway. Lewis Brown and Lance Hohaia, whose chip-and-chase effort was the undisputed highlight, finished with doubles, while Brent Tate had a blinder against his former club. Hohaia had settled seamlessly back into the fullback role following Wade McKinnon’s mid-season departure to the Tigers. The late-season result proved crucial to the Warriors finishing fifth and the Broncos missing the playoffs for the first time since 1991.

23. ROUND 18, 2015 – WARRIORS 28 D MELBOURNE STORM 14 AT MT SMART STADIUM
Nathan Friend’s extraordinary upside-down, through-the-legs pass that led to a try stole the headlines after the Warriors’ emphatic 28-14 dismantling of Melbourne. With the match delicately poised at 16-8 with 23 minutes left, the veteran hooker jumped to catch a bomb 10 metres out from the Storm’s line and produced the miraculous offload after flipping backwards over Kenny Bromwich’s shoulder. A quick interchange of passing saw winger Tuimoala Lolohea dive in for a try that was replayed on sports news segments worldwide and earned Friend the Dally M Headline Moment of the Year award. The unlikely acrobatics overshadowed a wonderful team performance, which catapulted the Warriors into the top four for the first time in almost four years. The Warriors had raced to a 16-0 lead before being pegged pack. Man-of-the-match Shaun Johnson, who had a key hand in his side’s first four tries, sealed the result with a 67th-minute try dripping with rugby league artistry, leaving Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster clutching at air with mesmerising speed and footwork.

22. ROUND 18, 2018 – WARRIORS 26 D BRISBANE BRONCOS 6 AT SUNCORP STADIUM
The Warriors responded to their worst loss of 2018 at Penrith with arguably their most electrifying performance of the season, pounding the Broncos 26-6 at Suncorp Stadium. After yet another remarkable Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try-saver on Corey Oates in the opening minutes, the Warriors surged to a 16-0 halftime lead via tries to Solomone Kata and Gerard Beale, and a dazzling solo effort from Issac Luke. The visitors thrilled the healthy expat contingent in the crowd with a try-of-the-season contender in the 50th minute, a 50-metre special sparked by a Simon Mannering offload and featuring two slick Shaun Johnson touches before Kata powered over for his second. Man-of-the-match Agnatius Paasi sealed an emphatic result with a barnstorming four-pointer.

21. ROUND 22, 2016 – WARRIORS 24 DEFEATED GOLD COAST TITANS 14 AT CBUS SUPER STADIUM
The Warriors overcame a 25,109-strong Gold Coast crowd and the hysteria surrounding Jarryd Hayne’s Titans debut to carve out their most impressive win of 2016. Hayne produced a string of dynamic plays at both ends after being injected from the bench, while Konrad Hurrell scored a try in his first match against the Warriors (the conditions of his mid-season release prevented him from making the Titans’ road trip to Auckland four weeks earlier) in a 10-all first half. A stirring contest swung on the Warriors’ opportunism: David Fusitu’a snaffled a Hayne pass 10 metres out from his own line and Kata scored on the next play, before Kata bagged a 90-metre intercept sealer best remembered for a giant fend on Anthony Don. Shaun Johnson took man-of-the-match honours after laying on three of the Warriors’ five tries.

20. ROUND 8, 2014 – WARRIORS 16 DEFEATED MELBOURNE STORM 10 AT AAMI PARK
Andrew McFadden’s first win as Warriors head coach was one to savour, with his charges outlasting Melbourne 16-10 in front of a 28,716-strong crowd at AAMI Park. Nineteen-year-old winger David Fusitu’a opened the scoring with his maiden NRL try – courtesy of a spectacular put-down in the corner that would soon become his trademark – and threw the last pass for the dazzling match-winner scored by Johnson, who handled three times in the movement. Sam Tomkins was man-of-the-match in his best game since joining the club.

19. ROUND 22, 2011 – BRISBANE BRONCOS 21 DEFEATED WARRIORS 20 AT SUNCORP STADIUM
The Warriors’ four-game winning streak was halted by Brisbane, but the Auckland-based outfit’s premiership credentials were nevertheless enhanced by the 21-20 loss in a genuine classic. The Broncos struck first through Justin Hodges, but Shaun Johnson’s scintillating 70-metre solo try and an equally brilliant effort, featuring a James Maloney chip-and-chase and top-shelf finishing from Kevin Locke, gave the Warriors a halftime lead. Three unanswered tries to the hosts appeared to quell the Warriors’ challenge, but former Broncos champion Shaun Berrigan’s four-pointer and a Maloney penalty goal levelled the scores with nine minutes left. Boom halfback Johnson’s 40-metre field goal attempt floated just under the cross-bar in the 77th minute, before opposite number Peter Wallace snapped the winning one-pointer with 100 seconds left.

18. ROUND 16, 2003 – WARRIORS 31 DEFEATED SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 30 AT AUSSIE STADIUM
Stacey Jones piloted the Warriors to victory in the club’s maiden golden point match, an extraordinary clash with battling South Sydney. The bottom-placed Rabbitohs surged out to a 24-6 lead with 22 minutes remaining, but the visitors – with Jones, Brent Webb, Francis Meli and Clinton Toopi in vintage attacking form – ran in four long-range tries in the space of 10 minutes to hit the front 30-24. Rampaging prop Iaefeta Palea’aesina set up an incredible length-of-the-field try with a 50-metre kick-off return before linking with Toopi. Souths rallied with a converted try with two minutes left to send the game into extra-time but Jones’ running 35-metre field goal sealed a 31-30 Warriors triumph.

17. ROUND 6, 2005 – WARRIORS 30 DEFEATED NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 26 AT ENERGY AUSTRALIA STADIUM
The Warriors carved out one of the most remarkable victories in their history in Newcastle, overcoming a 20-point deficit to snatch a last-minute win over the Kngihts. The hosts raced to a 20-0 advantage after half an hour and led 26-16 with 15 minutes left, at which point Andrew Johns left the field with a cracked jaw. Stacey Jones took control to engineer three late tries, including Francis Meli’s match-winner in the dying moments after a passage that covered 80 metres. The Warriors revealed they screamed the words ‘Waitangi’ and ‘Waiouru’ – referring to Waitangi mountain, which they climbed repeatedly during a torturous pre-season training camp at Waiouru Military Camp – as they dug deep to pull the game out of the fire. The win was the equal-eighth-biggest comeback of all time and remains the Warriors’ biggest ever, while it was just the club’s third success in 15 games against bogey side Newcastle.

16. ROUND 16, 1998 – WARRIORS 24 DEFEATED MELBOURNE STORM 21 AT OLYMPIC PARK
The Warriors produced one of the most extraordinary last-gasp tries in premiership history to stun ladder leaders Melbourne 24-21 in an Olympic Park thriller. Despite missing Kiwis stars Matthew Ridge, Stephen Kearney, Kevin Iro and Sean Hoppe, the Warriors surged to 14-4 halftime lead through tries to fullback stand-in Joe Galuvao and hooker Syd Eru. The Storm’s rapid three-try burst after the break and Brett Kimmorley’s 78th-minute field goal looked to have extended their six-game unbeaten streak at 21-18 ahead. But on the last play of the game, the Warriors swung the ball from one sideline to the other, before Stacey Jones launched a ‘Hail Mary’ bomb after the siren. The Storm failed to recover the ball amid a mad scramble and Nigel Vagana fired a pass out for an unmarked Tony Tatupu to score. After an agonising wait for the video referee’s decision as the myriad fumbles and rebounds were dissected, the try was awarded, handing victory to Auckland. The Storm, who shocked the rugby league world with their debut-season heroics, lost only three of their first 16 games. The Warriors were responsible for two of those defeats.

15. ROUND 8, 2001 – WARRIORS 24 DREW WITH BULLDOGS 24 AT WESTPAC STADIUM
The Bulldogs’ decision to take their home clash with the Warriors to Wellington paid huge dividends, with 27,724 fans packing out the new Westpac Stadium in the first premiership match staged in the New Zealand capital. But the ‘away’ team – who were missing senior stars Ivan Cleary and Kevin Campion – stole the show with one of the all-time great late comebacks. The high-flying Bulldogs seemed certain to bank two competition points at 24-8 ahead with less than six minutes left. But a superb chip-and-regather from Warriors five-eighth Nathan Wood produced a try for Henry Fa’afili and Francis Meli powered 45 metres to score after latching onto a Stacey Jones grubber in the set following the restart. Prop Justin Morgan then busted the line three plays after the kick-off and offloaded brilliantly on halfway for fullback Clinton Toopi, who outsprinted the Bulldogs’ cover for the equaliser. As jubilation swirled around ‘The Cake Tin’, Jones – who had nailed four goals from as many attempts – inexplicably hooked the relatively simple conversion attempt to consign an extraordinary match to a 24-all draw.

14. ROUND 24, 2006 – WARRIORS 24 DEFEATED MELBOURNE STORM 20 AT OLYMPIC PARK
The resurgent Warriors snapped runaway NRL leaders Melbourne’s 11-match winning streak by becoming the first visiting team to win at Olympic Park in 14 months, snatching a memorable 24-20 result. The teams traded tries throughout a frantic first half. The Storm took a 14-12 lead into halftime when Matt King scored a minute after Brent Webb had a brilliant try contentiously disallowed by the video referee. Webb posted the first four-pointer after the break from a Grant Rovelli kick but Greg Inglis sliced through soon afterwards to give the hosts a 20-18 advantage that they held for 25 minutes. On the back of a superb defensive effort at their own end, the Warriors grabbed a shock win after Webb’s cut-out ball released Manu Vatuvei on a 45-metre charge down the sideline. Vatuvei supplied the return pass for man-of-the-match Webb to streak away for the match-winner and one of 2006’s biggest upsets.

13. ROUND 7, 2018 – WARRIORS 20 D ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 12 AT MT SMART STADIUM
The Warriors made their most impressive statement yet with a 20-12 upset of previously undefeated St George Illawarra – despite the absence of Shaun Johnson and Solomone Kata. Their stand-ins, Mason Lino and Anthony Gelling, both scored memorable tries in a 10-0 first half. But reborn hooker Issac Luke was the hero of the 20-12 boilover, capping a marvellous display by scoring a crucial try on the back of his own 40/20 with 15 minutes left. Teenage back-rower Isaiah Papali’i’s 77th-minute try sealed a momentous result. The Warriors’ defensive resilience was inspirational, holding off the red-hot Dragons despite enjoying just 41 percent possession.

12. SEMI-FINAL, 2008 – WARRIORS 30 DEFATED SYDNEY ROOSTERS 13 AT MT SMART STADIUM
The Warriors parlayed their unlikely victory over Melbourne into a stunning 30-13 elimination of Sydney Roosters in front of 25,585 baying fans, who responded eagerly to the club’s appeal to ‘black out’ Mt Smart Stadium. The Roosters led 13-6 at halftime after Anthony Minichiello was awarded a dubious penalty try but the Warriors scored four unanswered tries in the second stanza. Brilliant fullback stand-in Lance Hohaia – who would be benched for returning bad boy Wade McKinnon a week later – completed a double, fellow standouts Ian Henderson and Manu Vatuvei scored to give the Warriors a commanding lead, and wiry Australian winger Aidan Kirk sealed the result with an 80-metre intercept try with seven minutes left. But the win was underpinned by the Warriors’ defensive commitment and relentless physicality. The most indelible memory of the match is of the 35-year-old Ruben Wiki, playing his last match on New Zealand soil, KO’ing Roosters centre Iosia Soliola with a ferocious kick-off return.

11. ROUND 6, 2001 – WARRIORS 13 DEFEATED BRISBANE BRONCOS 12 AT ERICSSON STADIUM
The rejuvenated New Zealand Warriors made a monumental breakthrough by snaring a maiden win in their 10th clash with NRL superpower Brisbane in an Ericsson Stadium thriller. The home side led 10-0 after 21 minutes through tries to Henry Fa’afili and Logan Swann before the defending premiers clawed back to level the scores with 20 minutes remaining. Earlier incarnations of the Warriors would have crumbled in the latter stages, but Stacey Jones sealed a euphoric victory by snapping a 25-metre field goal in the 72nd minute. Amid a magnificent team effort, 21-year-old Clinton Toopi – thrown into fullback after Ivan Cleary succumbed to food poisoning – starred in just his ninth NRL game. The breakthrough result kick-started a golden three-season period in the Warriors’ rivalry with ‘big brother’ Brisbane.

10. SEMI-FINAL, 2003 – WARRIORS 17 DEFEATED CANBERRA RAIDERS 16 AT AUSSIE STADIUM
An overwhelming pro-Warriors contingent in the 30,616-strong Sydney crowd roared as Stacey Jones kicked his side into a second straight preliminary final, with a late field goal snaring a 17-16 win over Canberra. The Raiders raced to a 10-0 lead after 13 minutes, but the rivals headed to the sheds at halftime locked at 10-all following tries to Logan Swann and Clinton Toopi. Henry Fa’afili broke a 12-game try drought with an aerial effort to put the Warriors in front for the first time before Raiders prop Luke Davico levelled up the scoreboard again at 16-all – which is where it remained for 21 nerve-shredding minutes. A prelim berth cruelly slipped out of Jason Bulgarelli’s hands as the rookie Raiders centre fumbled a Mark McLinden grubber that had sat up for him on the Warriors’ line. The Warriors’ parlayed that let-off into a drive downfield and Jones calmly booted the 77th-minute field goal to snatch a courageous victory.

9. SEMI-FINAL, 2011 – WARRIORS 22 DEFEATED WESTS TIGERS 20 AT SYDNEY FOOTBALL STADIUM
The Warriors summoned a finals comeback for the ages to bundle shell-shocked Wests Tigers out of the competition. Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah steered the favourites to an 18-6 halftime lead, with the Warriors’ only riposte coming through James Maloney’s try from a sizzling Kevin Locke break and flick pass. Feleti Mateo strolled over in the 49th minute from a deft Shaun Johnson short ball, before Lance Hohaia’s dummy-half dart trimmed the deficit to two. With three minutes on the clock, Krisnan Inu – who only came into the side after Joel Moon suffered a dislocated ankle in Brisbane a week earlier – batted back a Johnson cross-field kick. Lote Tuqiri fumbled the ball into the prostrate Inu’s hands; the centre lunged for the try-line, came up short and reached out again to score. The video referee confirmed Inu had not committed a double-movement as the Tigers had not placed a hand on him and a remarkable match-winner – as well as a preliminary final berth – was green-lighted.

8. ROUND 16, 2002 – WARRIORS 26 D BRISBANE BRONCOS 16 AT ANZ STADIUM
The Warriors put a thick, imposing line under their NRL premiership credentials by taking down the Broncos in Brisbane for the first time. The instinctive Brent Webb, who filled a host of gaps superbly for the Warriors in 2002, was the hero with two second-half tries off the bench – the first coming off a Justin Murphy offload at the end of a helter-skelter attacking passage to level the scores at 12-all in the 57th minute. Webb’s stunning chip-and-chase effort out of dummy-half was the Warriors’ third try in six minutes, while centre Clinton Toopi stretched out for his 13th touchdown in 13 games to seal stirring victory with a minute left. Webb had attracted the Broncos’ interest after a stellar 2001 Queensland Cup season but their modest contract offer steered the livewire utility in the Warriors’ direction.

7. ROUND 14, 2013 – WARRIORS 23 DEFEATED SYDNEY ROOSTERS 12 AT ALLIANZ STADIUM
The Warriors’ revival hit another searing high point when they humbled the high-flying Sydney Roosters 23-12 in a pulsating Sunday night contest. The in-form underdogs raced out to a 10-0 lead after tries to man-of-the-match Elijah Taylor and winger Ngani Laumape. But despite Shaun Johnson sensationally mowing down runaway Roosters speedster Michael Jennings, the hosts went to sheds 12-10 in front via two tries in the last five minutes of the first half as Sonny Bill Williams wreaked havoc. Though he bombed a try soon after the break, fullback Glen Fisiiahi – standing in for the injured Kevin Locke – was the hero of the second half, scorching 90 metres for a go-ahead try and freakishly robbing Shaun Kenny-Dowall of a certain four-pointer with a strip. A length-of-the-field try against the run of play to Manu Vatuvei with 10 minutes left sealed a euphoric result for the Warriors.

6. QUALIFYING FINAL, 2003 – WARRIORS 48 DEFEATED BULLDOGS 22 AT SYDNEY SHOWGROUNDS
The Warriors juggernaut gathered steam with one of the most devastating performances in finals history, blowing hot favourites the Bulldogs off the Sydney Showgrounds 48-22. Blockbusting winger Francis Meli gobbled up the headlines with five tries – a premiership record for a finals match. But it was the freakish skill, instincts and adventurousness of Brent Webb, Sione Faumuina, Clinton Toopi and Motu Tony, who was playing his first game in two months, that left the blue-and-whites shell-shocked. The Bulldogs trailed 16-4 at halftime before levelling up the scoreboard with the first two tries of the second stanza. The Warriors piled on six tries in a 25-minute blitzkrieg, however, with Meli adding three touchdowns to his early double, and lock Faumuina – whose offloads were wreaking havoc on the left edge – scoring a sensational 70-metre solo try.

5. PRELIMINARY FINAL, 2002 – WARRIORS 16 DEFEATED SHARKS 10 AT STADIUM AUSTRALIA
The New Zealand Warriors’ transformation into an NRL powerhouse was rubberstamped as an irresistible combination of grit, composure and brilliance carried the club into its maiden grand final with a 16-10 upset of the Sharks in a gripping, seesawing prelim. The Warriors scored the only points of the first half in the 20th minute when five-eighth Motu Tony sensationally intercepted a back-pedalling Paul Mellor’s ill-conceived offload. The visitors took a 10-4 lead with 25 minutes left as centre Clinton Toopi picked up a loose Ivan Cleary pass and outstripped the Sharks’ cover defence on a 50-metre sprint down the sideline for his 18th try of the season. But Brett Kimmorley, who duelled spectacularly with opposing No.7 Stacey Jones all afternoon, equalised with a neat solo try. Extra-time loomed until Jones – instead of setting for a field goal – gambled on a mid-set grubber in the 75th minute, masterfully threading the ball through for centre John Carlaw to steam through and collect a room service bounce and score the match-winner.

4. ROUND 21, 2007 – WARRIORS 31 DREW WITH SYDNEY ROOSTERS 31 AT SYDNEY FOOTBALL STADIUM
The Warriors and resurgent Roosters played out a golden point draw hailed as the season’s finest contest. Revelling under caretaker coach Brad Fittler, the Roosters raced to a 16-0 lead after 20 minutes but the Warriors piled on five unanswered tries to hit the front 30-18 midway through the second half. The match swung on the contentious 68th-minute sin-binning of Simon Mannering; the home side scored 13 points while the Warriors were a man short, including a stunning 38-metre field goal from Braith Anasta that appeared to seal the result. But opposing No.6 Witt sent the match into extra-time with a one-pointer just 17 seconds from fulltime. Neither side could find the killer blow during a frantic added period that included missed field goal chances by Anasta and McKinnon, a vital intercept by Crockett on his own try-line and a magnificent try-saver by Ruben Wiki on a flying Amos Roberts. The exhausted combatants deservedly shared the spoils of an epic 90-minute encounter, which the Immortal Bob Fulton and Roosters supremo Nick Politis each described as one of the greatest of the modern era. Warriors interchange forward Epalahame Lauaki was a resounding man of the match, scoring two tries and featuring heavily in two more – the high-water mark in his 69-game tenure with the club.

3. ROUND 1, 1995 – BRISBANE BRONCOS 25 DEFEATED AUCKLAND WARRIORS 22 AT ERICSSON STADIUM
The Auckland Warriors fulfilled the skyscraper-high expectations placed on them ahead of the club’s Australian premiership debut, but they landed just short of a dream start in a pulsating 25-22 loss to the Allan Langer-inspired Brisbane Broncos. A sell-out crowd of 29,220 had Ericsson Stadium bursting at the seams and the venue erupted as captain Dean Bell and the Warriors emerged from the tunnel and strode onto the field flanked by flames. But the Broncos made an ominous start through early tries to Willie Carne and Chris Johns. The Warriors struck in the 21st minute with a memorable maiden try, a 40-metre movement featuring superb offloads from Manoa Thompson and Whetu Taewa and finished off by fullback Phil Blake. Bell put Sean Hoppe over for a leveller soon afterwards and the Warriors stormed to a 22-10 lead with tries either side of halftime to Tony Tatupu – a blockbusting solo effort – and Tea Ropati. The incomparable Langer squared up the scoreboard with tries in the 54th and 61st minutes, however, and Julian O’Neill booted a penalty goal and a field goal to give the Broncos a three-point buffer as the Warriors frequently found themselves on the wrong end of referee Bill Harrigan’s whistle. The Broncos withstood a goal-line assault from the valiant Warriors in the dying seconds, hanging on to win an instant classic. Bell and Stephen Kearney were lauded as Auckland’s standout performers. The Frank Endacott-coached reserve grade side created history courtesy of a 36-14 win over their Broncos counterparts earlier in the evening, with Syd Eru scoring two tries and Stacey Jones kicking six goals.

2. PRELIMINARY FINAL 2011 – WARRIORS 20 DEFEATED MELBOURNE STORM 12 AT AAMI PARK
The Warriors clinched the second grand final berth in their history courtesy of a gripping 20-12 preliminary final boilover against minor premiers Melbourne. Rank outsiders pre-match, the visitors produced poise and toughness more commonly associated with their opponents. Kiwi international Sika Manu put the Storm on the board in just the fifth minute, but the Warriors responded when Krisnan Inu tipped a Shaun Johnson kick back for Bill Tupou to score, before Micheal Luck’s short ball put James Maloney over under the posts. Beau Champion ran 70 metres for a try from a scrum win to bring the Storm level but Maloney knocked over a penalty goal in the shadows of halftime for a 14-12 lead. That’s where the scoreboard remained for the first 36 minutes of an absorbing second half. The Warriors’ goal-line defence held its nerve as Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and co. probed for scoring opportunities, while Lewis Brown was denied a 69th-minute try when the video referee detected a small knock-on in the lead-up. But Johnson, who in his 15th NRL game repeatedly hemmed the Storm in with an outstanding kicking display, etched his name into finals folklore with less than four minutes left. The halfback skipped, stepped and dummied along the Melbourne defensive line on a hypnotic cross-field run, then hit the accelerator and offloaded for Brown to dive over. Maloney’s sideline conversion sealed the Warriors’ passage to their second grand final. “It was a pretty special effort from a young fella,” Cleary said of Johnson’s now-iconic try-assist. “For the size of the game and the timing of it… It’s obviously great when your players back themselves in high-pressure situations.”

1. QUALIFYING FINAL, 2008 – WARRIORS 18 DEFEATED STORM 15 AT OLYMPIC PARK
The Warriors became the first eighth-placed team to knock off the minor premiers in the maligned McIntyre Finals System’s decade-long tenure, snatching an incredible 18-15 triumph over Melbourne with a late long-range try. The Storm had no illusions that the rank outsiders had turned up to keep their season alive when Ropati sliced through to level the scores at 8-all just before halftime, and the Warriors took a six-point lead four minutes after the break as Vatuvei latched onto a Rovelli grubber. The under-siege hosts squared it up with an Israel Folau try and a Cameron Smith penalty goal, before Greg Inglis’ 68th-minute field goal inched the hosts 15-14 in front. The Warriors seemed headed for a gallant exit, until Ropati got outside Folau and released Vatvuei down the sideline with two minutes remaining. The wing behemoth outstripped two covering Storm defenders and slipped a one-handed pass between two more to send Witt away to the corner. The 70-metre special secured one of the great escapes – and upsets – in finals history.

WARRIORS 25 – CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF THE NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS by Will Evans

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