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The Warriors have won three straight games for the first time since their watershed 5-0 start to 2018, in turn elevating their seemingly ruined finals chances into a definite dark horse hope with a 24-10 defeat of battling Canterbury Bulldogs.

It was a match desperately low on high-quality footy, but the bulk of the best moments came from the Warriors – with Josh Curran coming of age, playmakers Reece Walsh, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Sean O’Sullivan (among some poor moments) producing some excellent pieces of attacking play, and wing surprise-packet Marcelo Montoya and pack-men Addin Fonua-Blake and Euan Aitken continuing their outstanding recent form. Wayde Egan’s early return from injury also provided a boost for their late charge.

While it was an unmistakably ugly win over a very, very bad team, that shouldn’t overshadowed the positives: the Warriors were missing two of the better, more senior players in mid-season arrivals Matt Lodge and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, and they kept the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half to ultimately carve out their biggest win of 2021…though it could/should have been double the final margin.

Still in 12th but only two points off eighth and with a showdown against the second-last Brisbane Broncos to come next Sunday before facing fellow hopes Canberra and Gold Coast in the last two rounds, the Warriors are right in the Top 8 mix still.

The Warriors couldn’t have started any better. In their first set of the match, O’Sullivan looped a long ball over a wide-lurking Curran, who strode into Bulldogs territory.

A few tackles later, the halfback found his marauding second-rower with a deft short ball close to the try-line, Curran running a great line to score his third try of 2021.

O’Sullivan undid much of his good work a few minutes later, however, throwing an ordinary intercept pass for Canterbury’s rookie centre Aaron Schoupp to race away, outpacing Walsh to the corner.

But the Warriors regrouped, taking back the lead in the 14th minute.

It was a carbon copy of the first try with an extra element: O’Sullivan hit a hard-running Curran on the edge and Jazz Tevaga backed up on the inside to take the offload and score.

Curran has developed into an absolute weapon close to the line; this was his fifth try assist of the season – and third in four weeks that have come in identical circumstances.

The Bulldogs were in all sorts and the Warriors wasted little time ramming home the advantage.

O’Sullivan was involved again, but it Walsh with the money ball for a somewhat improved Edward Kosi to acrobatically finish off his maiden NRL try in the corner.

Frustrating, the bumbling blue-and-whites were lack back in the door seconds out from halftime.

In a rare misstep for the afternoon, Montoya raced in off his wing as the Bulldogs unveiled a fairly routine set play and Jayden Okunbor cruised over out wide for a 16-10 halftime scoreline.

After a stodgy start to the second half, the key moment of the match arrived in the 51st minute.

Harris-Tavita rolled the dice on a third-tackle kick ahead 30 metres out from the Bulldogs line – and Walsh showed a clean pair of heels and great poise to get there and dot down.

The rest of the match was a lengthy exercise in frustration and incompetence from both sides.

The Bulldogs were pummelled 9-2 in the penalty count, yet the Warriors couldn’t capitalise on the scoreboard besides a breathing-space penalty goal from Walsh – a handy effort from 40 metres out – with 15 minutes left.

Meanwhile, Kosi’s game started to unravel. The erratic rookie coughed up the ball to gift a try to Canterbury, which was scrubbed after he was poleaxed by Sione Katoa, who was lucky stay on the field. He then bombed a try when he coughed up a superb Eliesa Katoa offload on the Bulldogs’ line.

But the Warriors nevertheless served up a rare treat for their fans: a final 10 minutes free of utter dread and anxiety. They were never in danger of letting the result slip, a first since their authoritative 19-6 win over the Titans back in Round 1.

More than that, they provided their supporters with something to aim for with three rounds left – when all seemed lost just a few short weeks ago.

Warriors 24 (Josh Curran, Jazz Tevaga, Edward Kosi, Reece Walsh tries; Walsh 4 goals) defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 10 (Aaron Schoupp, Jayden Okunbor tries; Jake Averillo goal) at Dolphin Stadium, Redcliffe. 

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