NRL 2020: Three memorable NZ Warriors v Sydney Roosters matches

The Warriors celebrate their win over the Sydney Roosters in 2008.
The Warriors celebrate their win over the Sydney Roosters in 2008. Photo credit: Getty

On Saturday, NZ Warriors were due to renew their rivalry against the two-time defending NRL champion Sydney Roosters at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium. 

But with the NRL season currently suspended amid the COVID-19 crisis, the two teams likely won't face off until later this year, when/if a reduced competition gets underway. 

The two sides enjoy a strong rivalry. They met in the 2002 Grand Final, which the Roosters won, and have played out many classics over the years. 

But their rivalry goes deeper than that. The Roosters have always had a strong Kiwi contingent in their team - current NZ internationals Joseph Manu and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are in their squad, while many top players have represented both sides, including current Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who began his career with the 'Tri-Colours'. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the Warriors hold the head-to-head advantage over the Roosters, winning 22 of their 41 games, with one draw in 2007 in Sydney.

With no rugby league possible, Newshub will take you back down memory lane, with three memorable Warriors v Roosters games that took place in New Zealand. 

September 19, 2008 - Warriors 30 Roosters 13 at Mt Smart Stadium 

The Warriors headed into the match full of confidence, after securing a famous 18-15 win over Melbourne Storm that made them the first eighth seeds to topple the minor premiers. 

Meanwhile, the Roosters had been upset by the Brisbane Broncos, but were still favourites, after thumping the Warriors 38-12 at the same venue earlier in the year.

Over 25,000 fans crammed into Mount Smart to watch the Warriors beat the Roosters.
Over 25,000 fans crammed into Mount Smart to watch the Warriors beat the Roosters. Photo credit: Photosport

That counted for little, as the Warriors defied the odds to claim a remarkable win in front of 25,000 fans.

After Lance Hohaia opened the scoring, they found themselves down 13-6 at the break, with a Mitchell Pearce try, an Anthony Minichello penalty try and a Braith Anasta field goal giving the Roosters the advantage.

The Warriors simply dominated the second half to score 24 unanswered points and move to within one game of the Grand Final. Hohaia, Ian Henderson, Manu Vatuvei and Aidan Kirk were second-half tryscorers. 

While the second-half fightback was impressive, the standout memory was Ruben Wiki's massive tackle on Sia Soliola, a hit that left the latter knocked out. 

Wiki's shoulder made contact with Soliola's face and the Roosters went flying back.

"Mark O'Meley - 'The Ogre' - we were at a bar and goes, 'If you want to be knocked out, thats the way to get knocked out'," Soliola told Fox Sports this week.

"I saw it at the airport, it was the highlight package for the entire day."

This match was the last for Wiki and Logan Swann in New Zealand before they retired.

The Warriors went on to lose 32-6 to eventual champions Manly Sea Eagles the following week and they haven't played a playoff match in New Zealand since. 

June 27, 2010 - Warriors 20 Roosters 18 at AMI Stadium 

Like the match above, this one is also remembered for one magical moment, when Kevin Locke put his body on the line to score the Warriors' matchwinning try in Christchurch. 

On a wet and horrible afternoon, the Warriors looked certain to lose, trailling 18-8 with five minutes remaining. 

The Roosters had countered Locke's earlier double with three tries of their own, through Todd Carney, Shaun Kenny-Dowell and Pearce. 

Kevin Locke scores the game-winning try against the Roosters in 2010.
Kevin Locke scores the game-winning try against the Roosters in 2010. Photo credit: Photosport

But the Warriors closed within one score in the dying stages, when Vatuvei crashed over in the corner, with James Maloney slotting the conversion. 

The Warriors threw everything at the Roosters and Locke scored the winner when he latched onto a Hohaia grubber kick, toed it ahead, then dived on the ball to score his third try of the match, slamming into one of the uprights in front of 20,721 fans.

Locke was carted off on a stretcher with a hip injury, but only missed two games. 

"He only had eyes for the ball," said Warriors coach Ivan Cleary, who was also a former Roosters player. 

"It was just set up, wasn't it, as one of those moments? The last play of the game, goalposts in the way and he was only thinking about the football.

"You've gotta love it when the players play like that."

June 13, 2015 - Roosters 25 Warriors 21 at Mt Smart Stadium 

While the Warriors have had their share of memorable comebacks, so have the Roosters - and they produced one for the scrapbook five years ago.

Led by Maloney, who was one of three former Warriors playing for the Roosters (along with Suaia Matagi and Siosiua Taukeiaho), the Rosters overcame a 20-6 second-half deficit. 

James Maloney returned to Auckland to haunt his old team.
James Maloney returned to Auckland to haunt his old team. Photo credit: Getty

A try double to Solomone Kata, along with tries from Tui Lolohea and Vatuvei - who became the first player in history to score 10 tries in 10 consecutive seasons - gave the Warriors the upper hand. 

But Maloney sparked the Roosters fightback, which saw Trent Robertson label him 'the Prince of Auckland' after the match. 

Down by six in the final 10 minutes, Maloney would score the Roosters' third try to level the scores, before slotting a field goal to give the visitors the lead. 

Shaun Johnson would even things up with a one-pointer of his own, but in the 78th minute, Jonathan Wright dropped a missed field goal attempt and gifted the Roosters with the matchwinning set.

Maloney lined up a field goal, before shifting the ball out wide, and Blake Ferguson crossed in the corner to seal victory. 

Warriors wing Ken Maumalo is the only current player to feature in that match, while Tuivasa-Sheck featured for the Roosters.