Impressive stints from a pair of rookie Warriors helped New Zealand down a disappointing Dragons outfit 18-0 at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The two winless teams were desperate to get on the board but it was the Warriors who looked far more desperate and in an injury-ravaged forward pack it was budding stars Eliesa Katoa and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown who set the early running with their physicality and each were rewarded with first-half tries.
A rib injury that forced centre Peta Hiku out of the game in the first half was the only sour note for Steve Kearney's men, who have sacrificed more than most to uproot themselves from their homes and families to base themselves in Australia.
They were boosted by a stunning 100% completion rate through the first 75 minutes of the game, completing their first 44 sets before club debutant Jack Murchie was deemed to have lost the ball in a tackle.
While their completions were near-perfect, an even more important stat-line for Steve Kearney would be one that was perfect – the zero points conceded.
Taunoa-Brown pounces on Dufty mistake
For the Dragons, it's not how they would have pictured their first game upon the resumption with their work in attack particularly poor. At least five times in the match players were tackled on the last and even outside of that their last-tackle options gave the Warriors no headaches at all and their attack overall was disjointed.
No-one could fault the effort of hooker Cameron McInnes though; things could have been a lot worse without his 71 tackles (and none missed), including one try-save.
Match: Warriors v Dragons
Round 3 -
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast
Things started to go wrong early, when fullback Matt Dufty dropped a kick and Taunoa-Brown was on hand to clean up the scraps in just the seventh minute.
Katoa crashed over in the 24th after some good work from Blake Green and Kodi Nikorima to spread the ball wide to the left and get the big Tongan one-on-one with Dragons halfback Ben Hunt.
Despite Katoa and Adam Blair each going off for HIAs (which they later passed) and Hiku going off, they were able to keep the Dragons scoreless to the break.
A penalty goal early in the second half made it 14-0 before a long-range movement started and finished by Nikorima made it 18-0 in the 54th.
Despite a few near-chances, the Warriors weren't able to extend their lead as they claimed a three-tries-to-nil win.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor admitted his players "looked like strangers out there" at times.
"The intensity we trained at is not transferring onto the field on game day," he said, adding the team needed to "find their passion".
"[The Warriors] ran harder, tackled harder and found their front," he added.
Halfback Ben Hunt, who was limping through the second half, had picked up a shin cork in the first half according to McGregor but was unlikely to miss an games.
Kearney hoped neither Peta Hiku (ribs) nor King Vuniyayawa (neck) would miss much or any football.
"[Hiku] has got a bit of a touchy rib so I just have to see how he pulls up over the next 24 hours," Kearney said.
"King was more of a neck, he got a bit of a spasm in his neck. It will take a fair bit to give King a head knock."
Nikorima scores from the set restart