Two pointless sides were first up on Saturday in the NRL as New Zealand Warriors faced St George Illawarra Dragons at the Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, an hour’s drive north of Sydney.
Much has been written about the personal sacrifices made by the Warriors, who have relocated away from their families and friends to New South Wales, to allow them to compete in the competition despite coronavirus restrictions. This move has enabled the competition to restart and made them most Australians new ‘second team’.
Both sides needed a win to kick-start their 2020 season after a disappointing opening two pre-Covid-19 games.
An error led to the opening try on six minutes when a grubber kick was knocked-on by Dragons full back Matthew Dufty and picked up by Jamayne Taunoa-Brown to dive over the line and ground by the uprights. Kodi Nikorima added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The Warriors were dominating the game and scored their second on twenty-four minutes when Eliesa Katoa took a short ball and crashed through the Dragons defence to score from ten metres. Nikorima smashed his kick between the uprights for 12-0.
As the half wore on the queue outside the doctor’s room lengthened as some massive hits saw heads clash and bones crunch.
An awful Blake Green field goal attempt in the dying seconds of the half got nowhere near the sticks and the sides went into the sheds separated by twelve points.
Nikorima picked up the first points of the second half with a forty-sixth minute penalty kick after the Dragons fouled under a high kick.
A break from nothing on fifty-four saw Nikorima grab a four-pointer. He initiated the move with a break and offload and despite the Dragons defence getting back and making a tackle ten out from their own line the Warriors were just too fast as the half-back was on hand to dive over. He was unable to add the extras, but the Warriors were 18-0 and playing brilliantly putting in a faultless performance.
As the game went past the three quarters stage the Warriors had completed forty-one sets in the game without a single incomplete set. It was a totally different Warriors side for the season restart.
The Warriors first mistake of the game came of seventy-five as they lost the ball in the tackle but it did little to detract from a great performance from the New Zealand side as they took the points after shutting out the red vee for the full eighty minutes.
Was this a springboard for the Warriors, to triumph in adversity? The coming rounds will tell us more.
New Zealand Warriors: Tuivasa-Sheck, Herbert, Hiku, Beale, Maumalo, Nikorima (T, 3G), Green, Egan, Taunoa-Brown (T), Papalii, Harris, Blair, Katoa (T). Subs: Lawton, Vuniyayawa, Paasi, Murchie.
St George Illawarra Dragons: Dufty, Pereira, Wiliame, Lomax, Ravalawa, Norman, Hunt, Sims, McInnes, Vaughan, Frizell, Sims, Graham. Subs: Kerr, Lawrie, Fuimaono, Aitken.
Referee: Chris Sutton.
Ground: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford.