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Injury-hit Warriors back on course for finals return after sinking Dolphins

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26th May, 2024
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The Warriors are back on track for a return to the NRL finals after last year’s surprise playoff run following their injury-depleted side’s Sunday upset over the Dolphins at Go Media Stadium.

A couple of weeks ago they were in danger of sinking to the bottom four spots on the ladder but they are now back in the top-eight equation after backing up their win over Penrith at Magic Round with a 24-20 triumph back on home soil over the Dolphins.

They are now up to a 5-1-6 record and sit just three points behind eighth-placed Canberra as they head into their first bye of the season.

The Warriors went into the game without Addin Fonua-Blake after Andrew Webster dropped the star prop because he left the sheds before the team song and the coach’s post-match coach address at Magic Round following their upset over three-time premiers Penrith.

They were also without Tohu Harris, Shaun Johnson, Luke Metcalf, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Wayde Egan through injury with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad a late withdrawal on game day to add to their crowded casualty ward.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was playing fullback for just the second time since leaving Canterbury in 2021. The 28-year-old was forced to step into the No.1 jersey when Taine Tuaupiki pulled out just before kick-off due to the impending birth of his child.

The Dolphins drew first blood when Jamayne Isaako planted the ball over in the corner before making it 10-0 when English centre Herbie Farnworth cut through some poor defence next to the posts.

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Chanel Harris-Tavita pegged the deficit back four points midway through the first half when he made the most of a failed Dolphins bomb defusal but the visitors regained the ascendancy when Farnworth split the defence up the middle and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow backed him up to re-establish a 10-point cushion.

Te Maire Martin, stepping up as chief playmaker with Johnson sidelined, crossed for a well-deserved try in the 32nd minute but the Dolphins maintained their 16-12 lead heading into the interval.

The home side hit the front after sustained pressure in the 57th minute when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak crashed over from close range.

At one point the Warriors had six of seven sets of possession with Harris-Tavita and Martin taunting the Dolphins with pin-point kicks to the in-goal area to earn repeat sets.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 26: Herbie Farnworth of the Dolphins is tackled during the round 12 NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and Dolphins at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, on May 26, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Herbie Farnworth. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Kiwi forward Marata Niukore converted the weight of possession into points when he carried Dolphins halfback Isaiya Katoa over the stripe to open up a 24-16 advantage.

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Isaako pounced on a grubber out wide to halve the deficit heading into the final four minutes but the Dolphins were unable to produce a late match-winner with a Jack Bostock break snuffed out by Martin in cover defence.

It was fitting that Martin put the finishing touches on the victory as he orchestrated the against-the-odds victory with a top-quality all-round display.

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