Sweet homecoming for Warriors

Published 11:00am 4 July 2022

Sweet homecoming for Warriors
Words by Kylie Knight

The Vodafone Warriors put in a dominant defensive effort to beat Wests Tigers 22-2 in their return to Mount Smart Stadium at the weekend.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the occasion, the side which hadn’t had a win since round eight, lifted to give the capacity crowd plenty to cheer about.

The performance, in which the Warriors kept the Tigers tryless, was also one of steely determination following a week of homecoming celebrations.

The last time the Warriors held an opposition tryless was in 2020 against the Dragons in round three.

Interim Head Coach Stacey Jones and Captain Tohu Harris were happy men, when they spoke to the media after the game on Sunday.

“It’s been a great week coming home, the excitement around the game and the players feeling like they’re at home. To put in a gritty performance, I thought, capped off a good week,” Jones said.

“We defended really well. We controlled the ruck, but I thought we built the pressure in the first half with our yardage sets – we weren’t flash but we got down their end of the footy field and I thought Shaun’s kicking game was exceptional. I thought he put the ball in the right spot and from there we just built some good pressure.”

Halfback Shaun Johnson silenced his critics with his kicking game on point – setting up tries and constantly putting the Tigers under pressure.

Harris was also outstanding, making 131m from 14 runs, and leading by example. It was fitting that he scored his side’s first try of the game.

“It was unreal. The noise that the crowd was making, just a surreal feeling of being back running out at Mt Smart and replicating the very first run-out, it was a real special moment and all the players just feel privileged to be a part of it,” Harris said.

Special occasion

So, did Harris feel the pressure of such a significant homecoming?

“Just excited, a bit of nerves built up leading up to the game especially today. We’ve been training here all week. We’ve got our own lockers – everything belongs to us and it just felt right. It felt like we were home, so the feeling all week was just a mixture of excitement and eagerness to get out there,” he said.

“We wanted to wipe the slate clean and start fresh today. I thought we did a good job of that. It’s something we can’t go backwards now.”

Sunday’s performance was one he and Jones say the team can build on.

“They worked really hard for each other. The Tigers threw a little bit at us but every time someone had the ball, there was pressure on that player and I thought our defensive effort especially in that last 10 minutes really picked up,” Jones said.

The Warriors have a bye this week in round 17 before their clash with the Eels at CommBank Stadium in round 18. 

They remain based in Redcliffe for the 2022 season, but will play all remaining home games at Mt Smart Stadium except one (Sunshine Coast Stadium on August 6 against Souths).

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