NZ Warriors have picked up their second – and easily most impressive – NRL victory of the Andrew Webster era, defeating North Queensland Cowboys 26-12 at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
In captain Tohu Harris’ 200th NRL match, the Warriors overcame the Cowboys to register their second win of 2023, and first win on Australian soil since April 2022.
In fact, victory on Saturday snapped the Warriors’ losing streak across the Tasman, after 13 previous failed attempts to taste success across the ditch.
After a 48-4 defeat in their last visit to Townsville, the Warriors buried their demons – led by a former Cowboy in Te Maire Martin, with a hand in two of his side’s five tries.
At the other end, the Warriors’ defence was just as impressive, conceding only two tries – and not letting in a single point after halftime.
Victory moves the Warriors into fifth place on the NRL ladder, leapfrogging Gold Coast Titans and the Roosters, courtesy of superior points differential.
The only negatives on the night came through injury blows to hooker Wayde Egan and forward Mitchell Barnett, who were both forced from the field in the second half, and didn’t return.
Despite coach Andrew Webster’s insistence that the Warriors fix their slow starts, it was the Cowboys that struck first, as rookie fullback Tom Chester opened the scoring inside the first four minutes.
A cruel deflection off the uprights undid Egan and fullback Taine Tuaupiki – making his first NRL start – and allowed the Chester to ground the ball and give the hosts a 6-0 lead.
From there, though, the game belonged to the visitors.
As another statement of his importance to the Warriors, Egan squared the ledger minutes later, after quick hands from Addin Fonua-Blake put the hooker in for his third try of the season.
Questionable defence allowed Cowboys rake Reece Robson to score under the posts in the 13th minute, only for the Warriors to strike back twice before the break.
Winger Marcelo Montoya crossed over on the left with a clever finish courtesy of Martin, before Jazz Tevaga put the Kiwi side ahead after coming off the bench.
In his first appearance of the season, the 27-year-old barged his way over from close range, with the emotion visible in Tevaga’s celebration.
As former Junior Warrior Roman Tuhimata battles a rare form of cancer, Tevaga has pledged $500 for every try he scores this season to help his friend’s treatment.
Regardless of the personal significance, Tevaga’s effort gave the Warriors a 16-12 lead at the break.
While the Cowboys were impressive in the first half, the Warriors kept their opponents in check in the second.
An early try to winger Ed Kosi, on the receiving end of an offload from Adam Pompey – who himself held off four defenders before the final pass – took the lead into double figures.
Eight minutes later, Montoya and Martin combined again, as the winger dived over for his second try, to complete the scoring on the night.
What’s more, the Warriors can look to build winning momentum in round four, when they return home to Auckland to play their first match at Mt Smart Stadium in the Webster era next Sunday.
NZ Warriors 26 (Egan, Montoya 2, Tevaga, Kosi tries; Johnson 3 conversions)
North Queensland Cowboys 12 (Chester, Robson tries; Holmes 2 conversions)