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The Warriors scored four second-half tries to reel in an 18-6 halftime deficit, producing probably their best 40 minutes of the season with 20 unanswered points.
The result will give the Warriors a platform to build on, and relieve the mountain of pressure that was building at Mt Smart.
It was far from a perfect performance, but the team showed impressive courage and conviction in the circumstances.
The forwards hunted as a pack and the attack was dangerous on both edges, with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck particularly effective in the clutch moments.
The focus, of course, was on Kodi Nikorima. After spending more than half of his life aligned with Brisbane – and 86 NRL games for the Broncos behind him – he was back at Suncorp Stadium in the Warriors jersey. He made an impact from the start, and showed what an asset he will be, especially as combinations are built around him.
Ligi Sao – making only his second appearance of the season – offered great energy from the bench and has surely done enough to keep his spot.
It was the classic game of two halves. The Warriors were all at sea in the first period, as the Dragons dominated territory and constantly found open spaces, and probably lucky to still be in the contest. But they were a transformed outfit in the second half, with committed, precise, football.
It was the first time a Warriors home game had been held outside New Zealand, and there was no shortage of support. A whole range of Warriors jerseys – from the 1990s to the present day – could be spotted on Caxton Street on Saturday afternoon and around the stadium precinct.
The Warriors made an awful start. The Dragons' first try was well worked, but Tyson Frizell had no right to take an uncontested catch of a Ben Hunt bomb, before sending over Zac Lomax. It got worse quickly, as Jai Field scorched across open pasture at Suncorp Stadium to dot down, following a James Graham bust. Like last week, the genesis was ineffective, grabbing tackles.
Agnatius Paasi has been probably the most effective Warriors forward over the recent month of discontent, and his close range try exhibited pure grunt and guts. That should have settled the Warriors down, but they still looked jittery. A Hunt bomb was allowed to bounce, before Cameron McInnes burrowed over under the posts for the third Dragons try.
There were occasional sparks in the first half – Tuivasa-Sheck was set free with a beautiful offload – but they were generally spoilt by poor decisions. The state of the Warriors current mindset was summed up late in the first half, when no one chased a Blake Green attacking grubber.
The Warriors found some verve to start the second half – they seemed to channel their anger from their poor first period and got their eventual reward with Peta Hiku's try, the Kiwis centre showing his deceptive ability to find a gap after Nikorima drew players in.
That gave the Auckland team some momentum and belief, as they noticeably grew in confidence. There was variation in the attack, and Nathaniel Roache was finding some space up the middle. A blindside raid paid dividends, as quick hands sent David Fusitu'a over, after smart work from Tuivasa-Sheck and Herbert. Maumalo's try took the Warriors ahead with 11 minutes to play – and after they navigated some nervous moments – Hiku's second sealed a memorable win.
Warriors 26 (P Hiku 2, A Paasi, D Fusitu'a, K Maumalo tries; P Herbert 3 goals), Dragons 18 (Z Lomax try, J Field, C McInnes tries; Z Lomax three goals). Halftime: 6-18