NRL 2022: NZ Warriors ride emotional Mt Smart homecoming to drought-breaking victory over Wests Tigers

NZ Warriors have saved probably their most complete performance of the NRL season for their long-awaited Mt Smart homecoming, slaying Wests Tigers 22-2 to break a seven-game losing streak.

Clinical is not a word anyone could use to describe the Warriors in recent times, as they've stumbled through more than 1000 days of COVID-19 exile across the Tasman, but for 80 minutes, they largely put aside their embarrassing mistakes and hardly allowed their rivals any chance of crossing the tryline. 

The result - the 300th victory of their 27-year history - sees them leapfrog the Tigers and Canterbury Bulldogs up the NRL ladder. 

Fans should not get too carried away just yet - 2022 will NOT be the Warriors' year - but at least the performance suggests club legend Stacey Jones may have stopped the rot, after almost a month as interim coach.

Jesse Arthars scores a try to clinch victory for the Warriors
Jesse Arthars scores a try to clinch victory for the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

Both teams struggled to gain an upper hand for the opening 25 minutes, with the Warriors unable to use a wealth of possession and position to their benefit. Eventually, veteran half Shaun Johnson slotted a penalty kick to salvage some payback and the early lead.

During the team's struggles this season, Johnson has been a chief culprit, unable to fill the role of game general that many had expected of him - but for one day, he produced the goods.

He regathered a last-tackle stab kick near the tryline for captain Tohu Harris to run a decisive line and score beside the posts.

Before halftime, Johnson kicked for winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, but the loose ball fell for fullback Chanel Harris-Tavita to force instead. 

The Warriors could easily have had two more tries in the opening half, with hooker Wayde Egan and half Ronald Volkman both deprived by bunker reviews.

For much of the second half, the two sides cancelled each other out, before Johnson aimed another kick for Watene-Zelezniak, who tapped the ball back for centre Jesse Arthars to gather and clinch the win.

Centre Luke Garner probably came closest to scoring a try for the Tigers, held up over the line.

In the final seconds, Johnson's line dropout drifted into touch and Auckland-born Wests prop Zane Musgrove almost won a scramble on the tryline, as the final siren sounded, but neither would have been enough to dent the celebrations around the ground.

"It's unreal," said Harris. "The support was outstanding - we could hear them right from the start of the game and we're just so happy to be here, so happy to be home.

"We knew it was going to be a special moment, but to walk out and to feel it... it was a special moment.

"I'm really proud of the players. We've been searching for a performance like that and to come up with it at home especially, I hope we did the support proud."

Their winning momentum won't last long, although the Warriors will at least gain two points from next week's bye. They return across the ditch for their next outing against Parramatta Eels in two weeks and host Melbourne Storm back at Mt Smart on July 29.

NZ Warriors 22 (Harris, Arthars & Harris-Tavita tries; Johnson 2 penalties & 3 conversions) Wests Tigers 2 (Doueihi penalty)