St George Illawarra have kept their top-two hopes alive after coming from behind to defeat the Warriors 26-6 on an historic day for NRLW at Mt Smart Stadium.
Previous games had been played as curtain-raisers to NRL finals but Sunday’s clash in New Zealand served as the first standalone fixture in the competition’s history and showed a thirst for women’s rugby league with a healthy crowd in attendance.
The result means this year’s competition mirrors 2018 with every match going the same way as it did last season, setting up a mouth-watering round of fixtures next week.
Brisbane will qualify for the grand final, barring a major mishap. However, there opponents remain a mystery.
If history repeats and Sydney Roosters belt the Dragons next week then there could be three teams locked on two points, should Brisbane beat the Warriors, with for and against the deciding factor again.
The Dragons looked the more threatening against the Warriors throughout the first half, but their willingness to move the ball proved their undoing as they came up with several errors at crucial times.
Skipper Kezie Apps was held up over the line and then Rikeya Horne was denied by a forward pass two plays later, while a brilliant shift to the right went unrewarded when Shakiah Tungai lost the ball in a frenetic first half.
It was a different story for the Warriors as fearless leader Georgia Hale made 40 tackles, Krystal Rota controlled the ruck and Charntay Poko kicked her second 40/30 in as many weeks but they failed to fire after the break.
The only points in the first half came when Onjeurlina Leiataua barged over in the 15th minute.
The try scorer showed she’s no one-trick pony as she and fullback Apii Nicholls produced some outstanding defence to hold Jess Sergis up after the break.
However, the Dragons finally took advantage of their territorial dominance when Shaylee Bent stormed through on the right edge to get her side on the board.
With momentum on their side, the Saints landed a telling blow when Tiana Penitani finished off a length-of-the-field set to crash over.
The result was then sealed when Maitua Feterika latched onto a perfectly-weighted Maddie Studdon grubber to make it three tries in 10 minutes, before Sergis and Botille Vette-Welsh raced in two more four-pointers to put the Dragons in the box seat for a grand final berth.