NRL: NZ Warriors wary of pitch invasions during 'home away from home' clash with Wests Tigers at Hamilton

NZ Warriors coach Andrew Webster has sounded a warning against fans becoming too involved in their 'home away from home' NRL clash with Wests Tigers at Hamilton on Saturday.

In May, the club took their fixture against Brisbane Broncos to Napier and suffered several interruptions to the game, as spectators invaded the pitch.

One estimation counted 26 such intrusions, which brought play to a standstill, as the Warriors tried to rally from a 20-6 deficit in the second half, eventually falling 26-22.

"It gets really annoying to be honest, especially when we're trying to build ourselves back into the game," said captain Tohu Harris afterwards. "It just burns, knowing that the other team is getting a rest, when we just want to keep going at them and keep trying to build pressure."

As they prepare for another trip to the provinces, albeit just an hour down State Highway One, Webster hopes the Hamilton crowd will be better behaved than their Hawke's Bay counterparts.

"I never want to be a partypooper," he said. "That's not my style, but we just want to create momentum throughout the whole performance.

"It's hard to create momentum, when people are running on the field. At the end of the day, we want NRL teams to take games to all these towns forever.

"We want other NRL clubs to go, 'Wow, did you see that sellout to see how much money we could make, if we took a game to that venue with the Warriors as the team'.

Security chases a pitch invader at Napier
Security chases a pitch invader at Napier. Photo credit: Photosport

"If they do that, and fans are loud and being lunatics like we love them being, I think that's a good thing to celebrate. We've got the best fans ever, but if they're jumping on the field, we lose momentum as a footy team.

"As a club and a country, I don't think [clubs] feel like they want to go back and take games there. I don't want the fans to miss out on those opportunities, because we love them and the support we've had this year has been amazing."

Hamilton was the scene of one of the country's most infamous pitch invasions, when local stripper Lisa Lewis - who later ran for Auckland mayoralty - dashed across then-Rugby Park in a bikini during an All Blacks v Ireland test in 2006.

This week's encounter is actually a home game for the Tigers, who often bring their Warriors fixtures across the Tasman in search of bigger gates. Their road trip takes on greater significance this year, as NRL clubs try to acknowledge the sacrifice made by the Auckland club, based in Australia throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wests line-up is laden with young NZ-raised talent, while NZ Kiwis legend Benji Marshall has been shoulder-tapped to take over the head coaching role in the future.

Warriors coach Andrew Webster
Warriors coach Andrew Webster. Photo credit: Photosport

"We're grateful," said Webster. "I think there's a strong NZ connection to their club, through Benji.

"To bring that game here to say thank you for everything the club's done... I wasn't here during that period, but I know [the Warriors] are grateful for it. I hope they make a dollar out of it too, looks like it's going to be a full house.

"To give up a home game is always tough and you're giving away the advantage, but I feel like they've got the integrity of the game at heart. It's a big call from them and they've done a great job.

"I hope Hamilton repays them and they're the second-best team on the night."

Webster admits he's never visited 'The Tron', renowned as the 'City of the Future'.

"I've always bypassed it, but I'm looking forward to it," he quipped. "I heard the stadium's cool, the crowd's soldout and I don't think there will be many Tigers there."

Sitting third on the competition ladder, the Warriors bring a four-game winning streak - seven of their last eight - to the match-up against the current cellar-dwellers.

Join Newshub at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Warriors v Tigers NRL clash