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The debate over whether Reece Walsh starts for the Warriors or is nursed along through his rookie season off the bench has surely been put to bed after the teenage prodigy produced three breath-taking try-assists and a dazzling try in a roller-coaster 30-26 victory over Wests Tigers at Central Coast Stadium.

But the complementary contributions of five-eighth Kodi Nikorima and the retrenched Roger Tuivasa-Sheck should ensure Walsh takes the field in the No.1 jumper for the time being.

Nikorima laid on Walsh’s try late in the first half and a crucial go-ahead four-pointer in the 68th minute, while RTS came up with some sizzling play in the three-quarter after moving to the wing to accommodate Walsh at long-term favourite Ken Maumalo’s expense in a Thursday change.

The Warriors had to fight hard, trailing twice inside 15 minutes and again in the second half after having two players sin-binned. But they showed enough resolve and temperament to snare the two points in the end, albeit in nervy, classic-Warriors fashion.

A set restart against the Warriors in the opening seconds set the tone for the early stages. The Tigers forced a line dropout and took little time in registering the first try.

Walsh’s lack of urgency cleaning up a Joey Leilua grubber saw Luke Garner pounce for the fifth-minute opener.

But wunderkind Walsh responded brilliantly and almost immediately.

Summing up an overlap situation in breath-taking style, he cut out two players to put Marcelo Montoya into space inside the Tigers’ quarter. The winger bumped off Tigers fullback Daine Laurie to level the scores.

Garner had a double in the 15th minute as a Tigers sweep play lured Nikorima in and Mbye sent the second-rower screaming through a hole.

The rest of the was the RTS and Walsh show, however.

Superb quick hands from Chanel Harris-Tavita and Nikorima opened up a chance for Tuivasa-Sheck. Standing at centre, the skipper stood up Leilua on the Warriors’ 40-metre line, sprinted into open space and popped a wonderful no-look ball on his outside for Jack Murchie to race over.

Walsh then sent Tuivasa-Sheck over in the corner with a magic rainbow ball, again putting his remarkable vision and ball-playing execution on show.

His speed came to the fore two minutes before the break, capitalising on a nice Nikorima ball and spearing through a hole before swan-diving in the corner.

An 18-10 lead for the Warriors at the break.

The break was the worst thing that could happen to the Warriors.

Montoya took just three minutes of the second half to negate his early four-pointer, making such a meal of a regulation kick clean-up he could solve world hunger.

David Nofoaluma swooped on Montoya’s colossal bungle to score and cut the deficit to two.

Montoya received the perfect opportunity to get back on the positive side of the ledger – and bottled it.

Put into open spaces and with the quicksilver Walsh sidling up to receive an inside ball for a certain try, the erratic ex-Bulldog inexplicably opted to kick and the play broke down.

A Nofoaluma intercept and long run ultimately resulted in Ben Murdoch-Masila’s sin-binning, as well as allowing the Tigers to level the scores through Doueihi’s boot. A high tackle from Murchie (who had made the error to give the opposition prime field position) saw the visitors edge 20-18 in front with 17 minutes left.

Just as BMM was set to rejoin to the action, Eliesa Katoa sullied his return to first grade with a brainless lifting tackle that earned 10 minutes on the sideline. But the Warriors dug in and came up with two sensational tries to surge to a 10-point lead.

Nikorima capped a strong performance with a magnificent last-tackle kick, stepping back on the inside and threading the needle for Wayde Egan to tear through and dot down.

But fittingly it was Walsh to have the last say for the Warriors on the scoreboard.

A freakish, around-the-corner cut-out gave a repentant Montoya a saloon passage to scurry in for his second.

The drama wasn’t over – the Tigers scored under the posts through James Tamou with just over a minute left (though a gutsy Walsh tackle in the corner prevented the Tigers’ from scoring a couple of minutes earlier).

But the Warriors managed to repel a desperate last-ditch raid from the Tigers to hold on for the win.

It was miles away from perfect, but Walsh’s 80-minute display shone a light for the way forward for a finals appearance. A win over the up-and-down Cowboys in Townsville next Friday would give the Warriors a 6-6 record heading into the bye – a fair effort given their injury disruptions – with front-row spearhead Addin Fonua-Blake likely to return after the break.

Warriors 30 (Marcelo Montoya 2, Jack Murchie, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Reece Walsh, Wayde Egan tries; Kodi Nikorima 3 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 26 (Luke Garner 2, David Nofoaluma, James Tamou tries; Adam Doueihi 5 goals) at Central Coast Stadium

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