Regarded as two of the most unpredictable and exciting sides in the NRL, the 21-season rivalry between the Warriors and Wests Tigers has been marked by high-scoring try-fests and extraordinary comebacks.
Overall record: Played 31 – Wests Tigers won 16, Warriors won 15; Wests Tigers scored 711 points, Warriors scored 651 points.
Biggest wins: Wests Tigers – 50-4 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch, 2004; Warriors – 42-18 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 2014.
Longest winning streaks: Wests Tigers – 4 matches (twice – 2000-01 and 2015-17); Warriors – 3 matches (four times – 2002-03, 2005-06, 2007-09 and 2013-15).
Finals: Played 1 – Warriors won 1.
Most appearances: Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 18; Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) – 15; Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) – 14; Ben Matulino (Warriors and Tigers) – 14; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 14; Chris Heighington (Wests Tigers) – 13; Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers) – 13; Lance Hohaia (Warriors) – 12; John Skandalis (Wests Tigers) – 12.
Most tries: Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) – 7; Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 7; Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers) – 7; Clinton Toopi (Warriors) – 7; Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) – 7; Simon Mannering (Warriors) – 6; David Nofoaluma (Wests Tigers) – 6; Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers) – 6.
Most points: Shaun Johnson (Warriors) – 60; Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers) – 58; Brett Hodgson (Wests Tigers) – 48; Pat Richards (Wests Tigers) – 42; Lance Hohaia (Warriors) – 30; Tuimoala Lolohea (Warriors and Wests Tigers) – 30.
2000-05 – Joint venture worries Warriors in early seasons
Wests Tigers achieved their first premiership win as a joint venture against the Warriors, with a field goal by Craig Field proving the difference in a 17-16 Round 2 success at Leichhardt Oval in 2000. The Tigers carved out an emphatic 30-4 victory on their first visit to Auckland later that year and chalked up another pair of wins in 2001 – despite their sophomore season troubles and the Warriors’ surge to a maiden finals berth.
The Warriors enjoyed a run of three wins over the Tigers in 2002-03, before the Tigers took their 2004 and ’05 home games against the Warriors to Christchurch and racked up two mighty wins. Brett Hodgson scored 22 points in a 50-4 rout in ’04, while former Auckland Warriors centre Paul Whatuira crossed for two tries in a 24-6 win the following season.
2005-09 – Warriors restore pride
Beginning with a 21-4 victory over the eventual premiers midway through 2005, the Warriors downed the Tigers six times in seven meetings, including a 26-10 result to break their Christchurch hoodoo in ’06 and a pulsating 28-26 win at Leichhardt that ultimately proved crucial to the Warriors scraping into the ’08 finals and the Tigers missing the cut.
Tigers fullback Brett Hodgson missed a sideline conversion attempt after fulltime that would have sent the latter encounter into golden point after giant Kiwis winger Taniela Tuiaki had scored two tries in the final four minutes, giving him a hat-trick for the match.
2010-14 – Finals miracle stands out among succession of thrillers
The Tigers wrested back control of the rivalry in 2010 with a nine-try, 50-6 drubbing at Campbelltown – including a hat-trick to centre Geoff Daniela – as both sides made their way towards the finals. But the clubs experienced both sides of extraordinary comebacks and gut-wrenching finishes in 2011, albeit with vastly different rewards and consequences at stake.
Round 14, 2011 – Benji inspires stunning comeback
The Warriors appeared certain to gain revenge for a 20-12 loss in Round 2, leading the Tigers by 18 points inside the final quarter of their mid-season clash at Mount Smart after a blistering three-try flurry in the space of 11 minutes, with Manu Vatuvei bagging a brilliant double and rookie No.7 Shaun Johnson racing away for his maiden NRL try. But New Zealand Test captain Benji Marshall engineered one of the great fight-backs of the NRL era, scoring two tries and laying on the match-winner for winger Beau Ryan in an extraordinary 26-22 result in favour of the Tigers. Marshall was also involved in a fiery conclusion to the match, jostled vigorously by Warriors defenders after running the ball over his own dead-ball line on full-time, sparking a heated push-and-shove.
Semi-Final, 2011 – Warriors eliminate heartbroken Tigers via courageous late rally
Pumped 40-10 by Brisbane in the qualifying final a week earlier, the Warriors were on course for a straight-sets finals exit when they trailed Wests Tigers 18-6 at halftime at the SFS. But the Warriors scored the only three tries of a frenetic second half, pegging the deficit back to two points with 15 minutes remaining before Shaun Johnson’s fateful cross-field bomb at the 77-minute mark. Inscrutable centre Krisnan Inu batted the ball back, Tigers winger Lote Tuqiri was unable to handle it and it popped back into the prostrate Inu’s hands. Inu reached out to score a remarkable match-winning try and send the Warriors into the preliminary final, 22-20.
In a hotly-anticipated rematch early in 2012, the Warriors coughed up a 10-0 halftime lead before being overrun 24-22 by the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.
The following season, Marshall played his final game at the hallowed venue as a Tiger (prior to his short-lived switch to rugby union) against the Warriors; the embattled joint venture led 14-6 at the break, but the Shaun Johnson-inspired visitors won 24-14 after a second-half shutout.
The extraordinary sequence of early leads being overturned continued when the Warriors prevailed against the rapidly improving Tigers early in 2014, recovering from a 12-0 deficit to snatch a halftime lead before powering away to a 42-18 victory. Bulldozing centre Konrad Hurrell starred off the bench and winger Glen Fisiiahi raced over for four tries in the helter-skelter clash, which doubled as the Warriors’ maiden win in seven matches in Wellington.
That match produced arguably the craziest try ever scored after the halftime siren.
2015-17 – Tigers expose Warriors at both ends of the season
Manu Vatuvei celebrated his 200th first grade appearance with a double in a 32-22 defeat of the Tigers early in 2015, but the injury-ravaged Warriors crashed to a 50-16 loss at Campbelltown in penultimate round. Told by coach Jason Taylor he was unwanted the club only days earlier, NSW Origin hooker Robbie Farah responded with a man-of-the-match performance in the thrashing.
Campbelltown was the venue again in Round 1 of 2016, which saw the Tigers race to a 28-6 halftime lead before the Warriors charged back to trail by just two points. James Tedesco’s second try on fulltime sealed a 34-26 victory.
The clubs were fighting for survival in the finals race in a Round 25 shootout at Mt Smart later that season. The Warriors led by six with 10 minutes left but were left shattered by a blistering Tigers finish, with the visitors running in three late tries to win 36-24.
Former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary took over the embattled Tigers early in 2017 and – with mid-season Warriors discard Tuimoala Lolohea scoring a memorable try and kicking four goals – steered the side to a 28-16 final-round win at Leichhardt Oval.
The match doubled as Warriors great Ben Matulino’s last appearance for the club before joining the Tigers, while Russell Packer and Pita Godinet added to the ‘Warriors feel’ at the Tigers as fellow 2018 recruits.
The Warriors carved out an emphatic 26-4 win over the visiting Tigers in Round 9 of 2018, with Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck dominant. Former Gold Coast utility Karl Lawton scored two late tries off the bench on club debut to seal the result.
The reality of life without Johnson began to bite at Campbelltown in Round 2 of 2019, however, as Robbie Farah wound back the clock with a dummy-half master-class in the Tigers’ 34-6 cakewalk – their fifth win in six matches against the Warriors.
The Warriors recovered from conceding two early tries to carve out a gutsy 26-20 win over the Tigers in Round 12 of their tumultuous 2020 campaign – a victory that kick-started the jettisoned club’s stirring late-season revival. Kodi Nikorima was in dominant touch, with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris and two-try hero Peta Hiku also enjoying fine games.
THEY PLAYED FOR BOTH CLUBS
Paul Whatuira: Wanuiomata junior Whatuira played five NRL games off the bench for the embattled Auckland Warriors in 2000. After subsequent stints with Melbourne and Penrith – winning a grand final with the latter in 2003 – the centre joined Wests Tigers in 2005 and won another premiership that year, scoring 18 tries. Whatuira linked with Huddersfield in 2008 and later had a failed stint with Parramatta in 2011.
John Simon: Former Illawarra, Sydney City and Parramatta half Simon joined the Auckland Warriors midway through 1999, playing 32 games for the club – the majority as captain. The NSW and Australian rep joined Wests Tigers in 2001, chalking up 18 appearances before hanging up the boots.
Tyran Smith: Auckland-born Smith, a winger-turned-lock, arrived at the Warriors in 1998 via stints with Souths, North Queensland and Hunter Mariners. He played 10 games for the Warriors before linking with Balmain in 1999 and featuring in 42 games during Wests Tigers’ first two seasons. The eight-Test Kiwi spent the last four years of his career at Canberra.
Robert Mears: A wholehearted, slippery hooker, Mears began his career at the Roosters before playing 16 first grade games for the Bulldogs in 1997-98. He was a valuable pick-up for the struggling Auckland Warriors, playing 40 games in two seasons and taking out the club’s Player of the Year award in 2000, before embarking on stints with Leeds, Wests Tigers – where he played 57 games from 2002-04 – and Leigh.
John Carlaw: Reliable three-quarter Carlaw became a foundation Wests Tiger after stints with Hunter Mariners, Melbourne and Balmain in the late-1990s, but was snapped up by the burgeoning Warriors in 2002. The Newcastle product played in the Warriors’ maiden grand final appearance before finishing his professional career with St George Illawarra in 2004.
Richard Villasanti: A first grade debutant for Balmain in 1999, ‘Villa the Gorilla’ played seven games during Wests Tigers’ inaugural NRL season, but made his mark with the Warriors. The hulking forward played 96 games for the club and became its first Australian Test representative in 2003, while also featuring in all seven of the Warriors’ finals games in the early-2000s.
Matt Jobson: After cutting his teeth in the NRL with Newcastle, Jobson played two first grade games for the Warriors in 2004. The back-rower returned to Australia after just one season in Auckland and played four games for the Tigers in 2005.
Michael Crockett: Nuggetty winger Crockett scored seven tries in eight games for Wests Tigers in 2006 before being snapped up by the Warriors. He played 20 games and scored 11 tries for the Auckland-based club in two seasons.
Wade McKinnon: Former Souths and Parramatta fullback McKinnon was a sensational acquisition for the Warriors in 2007, although his four seasons with the club were plagued by injury and suspension. Ludicrously sent off for allegedly using a knee on the Tigers’ Taniela Tuiaki in a match in ’07, McKinnon played 54 games for the Warriors before making a mid-season switch with the joint venture in 2010. The fiery No.1 played 22 games for the Tigers before joining Hull FC in 2012.
Elijah Taylor: Valuable back-rower Taylor – also a capable centre and hooker – captained the Warriors to their maiden NYC premiership success in 2010, before featuring in the club’s NRL grand final loss a year later during his rookie season. After 67 games for the Warriors, he was lured to Penrith by his former coach Ivan Cleary in 2014, playing 39 games in two and a half seasons. Switching to Wests Tigers midway through 2016, Taylor played 80 games for the joint venture to date and was reunited with Cleary again in 2017-18. He linked with Super League club Salford in 2021.
James Gavet: After breaking into first grade with Canterbury in 2012, bruising forward Gavet made a name for himself in 12 appearances for Wests Tigers in 2014. A stint in Brisbane was wrecked by injury, but he 42 games for the Warriors after arriving in 2016 and was one the club’s most impressive performers in 2017 and ’18 despite missing big chunks of those seasons through injury. He departed for Newcastle in 2019.
Bodene Thompson: After four seasons in the Titans’ first grade ranks, Tauranga-born Thompson joined Wests Tigers in 2013 and played 36 in two seasons. A specialist back-rower who boasts the mobility to play in the centres, Thompson has been a regular fixture on the Warriors’ right edge since arriving in Auckland in 2015, scoring 18 tries in 58 games before departing at the end of 2017.
Blake Ayshford: After bringing up a century of NRL games with Wests Tigers – including finals appearances in 2010-11 – centre Ayshford’s career stalled during a two-season stint at Cronulla in 2014-15 that garnered just 20 first grade appearances. Ayshford linked with the Warriors in 2016, however, and scored 13 tries in 43 of a possible 48 games in the top flight to the end of 2017. Injury and stiff competition kept him out of NRL contention in 2018, but he managed seven appearances for the Warriors in 2019 before hanging up the boots.
Tuimoala Lolohea: A linchpin of the Warriors’ NYC premiership triumph in 2014 – the same year he made his NRL debut as a 19-year-old – the gifted Lolohea scored 104 points in 52 first grade games for the club at fullback, wing, centre, five-eighth, halfback and off the bench. Unable to forge a permanent spot under Stephen Kearney in 2017, Lolohea joined Wests Tigers midway through the season and started in 13 straight games in the No.6 jumper, racking up 92 points. After starting at fullback in 2018, he languished in reserve grade and headed to Super League.
Ben Matulino: Wellington product Matulino graduated from the Warriors’ NYC ranks to make his first-grade debut in 2008 and was a Kiwi Test rep a year later. Regarded as one of the biggest hitters and best offloaders in the competition, Matulino played a key role in the Warriors’ charge to the 2011 grand final and won the club’s Player of the Year award in its disappointing 2012 and ’15 seasons. After becoming just the third player to bring up 200 NRL games for the Warriors in 2017, the 23-Test veteran reunited with former coach Ivan Cleary at the Tigers in 2018 and played 36 games for the club before being struck down with injury.
Russell Packer: Levin Lions junior Packer made his NRL debut for the Warriors at just 18 years of age in 2008 and played 110 games for the club over six seasons. The burly enforcer was prominent in the Warriors’ charge to the 2011 grand final, after which he made two Test appearances for New Zealand. A shift to the Newcastle Knights ahead of the 2014 season was derailed by a jail term for an assault conviction, but a reformed Packer was picked up by St George Illawarra and after two seasons out of the NRL he played 22 of the Dragons’ 24 games in 2016. A Kiwis recall followed in 2017 before he linked with former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary at Wests Tigers in 2018. Packer has played 33 games in Tigers colours – but just 14 over the past three seasons.
Pita Godinet: Christchurch-born livewire Godinet played 18 NRL games for the Warriors from 2011-13, while he also featured in the club’s NSW Cup grand final loss to Canterbury in 2011. After two seasons with Wakefield Trinity, the utility played two first grade games for Manly in 2016 and featured prominently for ISP outfit Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in 2017. A low-key pick-up for the Tigers in 2018, Godinet made nine appearances for the club.
Bayley Sironen: The son of Balmain legend Paul Sironen, versatile Bayley made two appearances for Wests Tigers in 2017 before making a name for himself as a classy ball-playing back-rower at South Sydney in 2019-20. Snapped up amid the Warriors’ 2021 recruitment drive, Sironen has made eight top-grade appearances for the club so far and scored two tries.
Ben Murdoch-Masila: Famously debuting off the bench in the unforgettable 2010 qualifying final against Sydney Roosters, powerhouse forward Murdoch-Masila played 52 games for Wests Tigers before joining Penrith in 2014. A five-season stay in Super League with Salford and Warrington included a starring role in Tonga’s incredible surge to international rugby league prominence from 2017. The Auckland-born 30-year-old returned to the NRL with the Warriors in 2021 and has been one of their best to date this season, scoring an equal-team-high five tries in nine appearances.