Warriors winger Ken Maumalo.

The manner in which the New Zealand Warriors beat the North Queensland Cowboys on Friday night is a case study for pinpointing the differences in the side this year compared to the 2017 team.

The Warriors travelled to Townsville off a short turnaround and clung to the lead in a tense final 30 minutes for a 23-16 win, showing patience and control to swing the momentum back in their favour when it mattered most.

Last season 10 of the Warriors 17 losses were 'away'. This year the Auckland-based side is enjoying a 6-1 'away' record. The Cowboys result was also the Warriors' 10th win for the 2018 Telstra Premiership. 

Coach Stephen Kearney applauded his side's ability to keep their noses in front against a fast-finishing Cowboys side that threatened to run over the top of them.

"I thought there were a couple of key moments, when we were defending our try line sometimes that's a momentum swing," Kearney said.

"When you keep them out and a couple of times there they got the touches, when the ball was put in the in-goal.

"There was a kick with maybe six minutes to go where Shaun [Johnson] and Blake [Green] got down on the kick chase and that turned it back in our favour through a defensive effort, so yeah there were some good parts to it."

It was a welcome return after two weeks out for fullback and captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. 

Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

And he handled it brilliantly with a try assist and a try, as well as a handful of try-saving plays when the Cowboys were attacking.

"I was pretty happy to just get the win away just to come back into the team because they've been performing really well," Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"I didn't want to come in and miss the beat so I had to come in and try and do my best and I was happy that I was able to contribute on some of the plays."