The NZ Warriors have brushed off the drama of the past two months to claim a near-flawless win over the St George Illawarra Dragons in the first game of the restarted NRL season.
The NZ side ran in three tries to none and in the process claimed a unique slice of NRL history, becoming the first team to complete their first 40 sets of tackles. That streak came to an end at 44 in the 75th minute of the match.
Such mistake-free football ensured the Dragons were starved of field position and with it, opportunity, as the Auckland-based side put on a heartening display of effective, yet no frills, rugby league.
It was also the first time since 2006 that the Warriors have kept a team scoreless in Australia.
Technically the home side, the Warriors controlled the game from start to finish against a toothless Dragons side, who remain winless in 2020 despite boasting a significant number of representative players.
The Warriors received a huge boost from their emerging rookies Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Eliesa Katoa, who both crossed for tries in commanding and highly-physical performances, while Kodi Nikorima shone in the halves.
Taunoa-Brown opened the scoring in the 7th minute, when Dragons fullback Matthew Dufty made a meal of a Blake Green grubber and he was on hand to scoop up the ball by his fingertips and dive over next to the posts.
Katoa followed suit 17 minutes later, crashing on to a short ball from Nikorima to power over from 10 metres out.
Coming out of the interval at 12-0 up, Nikorima put the finishing touches on his own 30m break from dummy half, taking a one-out pass from the play of the ball to burrow over the line and put what ultimately proved to be the nail in the Dragons' coffin.
The victory puts the Warriors on the board for 2020, after falling to losses in the opening two rounds of the season prior to the COVID-19 enforced suspension.
They'll look to make it two straight when they face Penrith at Campbelltown Stadium on Friday.