16 Mar 2019

Green-inspired Warriors crush Bulldogs

8:53 pm on 16 March 2019

Blake Green pulled the strings and Adam Keighran was his able apprentice as the Warriors smashed the Canterbury Bulldogs 40-6 in a one-sided NRL opener.

Solomone Kata celebrates his try during the Vodafone Warriors ' win over the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Solomone Kata celebrates his try during the Vodafone Warriors ' win over the Canterbury Bulldogs. Photo: Photosport

There was a heavy police presence and a moment's silence for the Christchurch terror attack victims before the game got underway this evening.

Coach Stephen Kearney revealed the tragedy on Friday had robbed the team of their usual upbeat approach but that changed in the immediate lead-up.

A prayer session on Friday night was followed by a morning meeting in which players spoke openly about their reaction to the horrific events which had rocked the country.

"In the events of the last 30 hours, there hasn't been a great deal to smile about," Kearney said.

"The lads were really keen to put in a performance that made people smile."

But fears the New Zealand club would crumble following the departure of star halfback Shaun Johnson were shown to be premature as Green took command at Mt Smart Stadium.

Everything went through the veteran playmaker in an enormously promising team display against a Bulldogs' side who rolled over in alarming fashion.

Centre Solomone Kata bagged two of the Warriors' seven tries but he was one of numerous attacking weapons able to shine after the home side established control up front.

Green had countless touches on both sides of the ruck, directing his runners and showing what a central figure he will be this year.

He laid on both opening tries through cross kicks and unfurled key passes in several others.

The biggest plus for the hosts was the debut of five-eighth Keighran, who scored 16 points in a mature debut, including a first-half try.

The 21-year-old tried nothing fancy - as club great and assistant Stacey Jones had suggested this week - but was highly effective and missed just the first of his seven conversion attempts.

Green's deft kicks set up tries to Ken Maumalo and Kata while Keighran took a pass from his halves partner in half a gap before gliding past two defenders.

Nathaniel Roache's try before halftime was the best, to put his team 22-0 up.

The young hooker, in his first appearance for 18 months, stormed 30m under the crossbar after brilliant work from Tongan pair Kata and David Fusitu'a.

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck came alive after the break, using his footwork to score one try and set up Kata's second.

Peta Hiku scored the Warriors seventh try while new signing Christian Crichton bagged the Bulldogs' lone score.

There were few redeeming features for the visitors, who struggled for a foothold up front, missed easy tackles and kicked aimlessly.

In his first Bulldogs' appearance, prop Dylan Napa looked off the pace in his 44 minutes while former Warriors' playmaker Kieran Foran endured a forgettable return to Auckland, exacerbated when crunched by Jazz Tevaga.

That brought a healthy roar from a crowd of 18,795, swelled when Warriors' management announced hours from kick-off that the remaining tickets would be free in a "unifying gesture" following the Christchurch terror attacks on Friday.