Warriors kick off NRL season in style with dominant win over Bulldogs

Adam Keighran scores on debut for the Warriors against the Bulldogs.

PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES

Adam Keighran scores on debut for the Warriors against the Bulldogs.

The Warriors have kicked off the post-Shaun Johnson era in stunning style after an emotional day at Mt Smart Stadium.

The game was all-but over by the 45th-minute as Stephen Kearney’s side raced out to a 28-0 lead before closing out an impressive 40-6 season-opening victory.

Coming a day after the devastating terrorist attack in Christchurch, the events on a football field pales in significance.

Sport does does have a way of bringing people together, though, and the Warriors encouraged a show of unity by opening up the doors for free on Saturday.

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A crowd of almost 19,000 fans turned up to Mt Smart as a result, the home team giving the majority of them plenty to cheer about as they ran in seven tries to one.

All eyes were on Adam Keighran as he followed in the footsteps of Johnson.

The 21-year-old rookie had a debut to remember, putting in a composed attacking display, scoring a well-worked try while missing just one conversion attempt.

Keighran showed no signs of being overawed by the occasion and didn’t try to overplay his hand. With Blake Green calling the shots, he didn’t need to. 

The chief playmaker set up tries with two pin-point kicks to Ken Maumalo and Solomone Kata. The latter finished with a double while Nathaniel Roache, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Peta Hiku also crossed.

On Saturday’s evidence, Kata’s shift to the right edge looks to be an inspired choice. The Tongan international shrugged off an early mistake mistake to produce a barnstorming display. 

And he eased concerns over his distribution skills to set up Roache’s try, who put in an encouraging display in his first NRL appearance in more than 18 months.

Maumalo was also a tower of strength on the left flank, running for almost 200 metres. But it was a true all-round effort, built on a rock-solid defensive display.

The opening 20 minutes was played at a cracking pace with the Bulldogs starting with plenty of aggression.

But they gradually began to fade.

It wasn’t that the visitors were starved of attacking opportunities, they just couldn’t build any sustained pressure in the red zone.

The Warriors, on the other hand, were clinical in the first half.

Ten minutes before halftime, Keighran stepped inside one defender before dummying past Kieran Foran for a moment he will never forget.

Roache then celebrated his comeback with a well-deserved try in the shadows of halftime to put the Warriors in front 22-0.

It was a brilliant 50-metre play instigated by Kata, who shrugged off a defender and found David Fusitu’a, with Roache on hand to receive the offload.

The Warriors showed no let-up in the second half as they took just five minutes to continue the onslaught.

With the Bulldogs’ line-speed virtually non-existent, Tuivasa-Sheck beat some feeble defence with a show-and-go after a smart switch in play from Green.

The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the 55th minute after Kata appeared to pick up an injury, Christian Crichton scoring down his side shortly after.

But Kata quickly recovered, scoring off a slick shift to the right before Hiku finished the scoring with a simple try down the left.

Warriors 40 (Solomone Kata 2, Ken Maumalo, Adam Keighran, Nathaniel Roache, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Peta Hiku tries; Keighran 6 goals) Bulldogs 6 (Christian Crichton tries; Kerrod Holland goals). HT: 22-0.