Warriors drought ends with win over dissapointing Cowboys
THE New Zealand Warriors have snapped an 11-game losing streak with a hard fought 20-18 win against the Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium.
The victory would have taken some pressure off Warriors coach Matt Elliott who last week was the subject of rumours he was set to be replaced in the top job by former West Tigers coach Tim Sheens.
After losing their first three matches of the season, the Warriors looked on target for a fourth defeat when the Cowboys raced out to a 12-0 lead on the back of first half tries to Kalifa Faifai Loa and Brent Tate.
With skipper Johnathan Thurston in control, it seemed the home side would go into the half-time break in the same position it had for the first three games this season - scoreless.
But a lucky try to Penrith-bound Elijah Taylor in the 39th minute gave the Warriors some belief.
The return of hooker Nathan Friend from a shoulder injury for his first game of the season was a big plus for the Warriors.
His service to halves Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai allowed the pair more time and space to attack the Cowboys' line, and when Johnson hit a gap at speed and scored just five minutes after the restart to level the game at 12-all, things looked ominous for Neil Henry's men.
When blockbusting centre Konrad Hurrell bustled over in the 52nd minute the Warriors led 18-12 - the first time they had been in front in a game this season.
The Warriors played the last 10 minutes a man down after injuries to Dane Nielsen (rib), Kevin Locke (concussion) and Ben Henry (cut face), but a Johnson penalty with three minutes on the clock put the issue beyond doubt.
Winger Antonio Winterstein scored a minute later to reduce the margin to two points, but it was too little too late for the Cowboys who face some soul-searching after their third loss in four games.
Warriors 20 (Elijah Taylor, Shaun Johnson, Konrad Hurrell tries; Johnson 4 goals)
Cowboys 18 (Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brent Tate, Antonio Winterstein tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 goals)