The Warriors have won the Holden Cup Under-20s grand final from eighth place after repelling a dramatic Brisbane fightback to prevail 34-32 at ANZ Stadium.
Warriors coach Stacey Jones hailed the incredible resolve of his Holden Cup side after they fought off a dramatic Brisbane fightback to claim the 2014 premiership on Sunday.
On the back of Solomone’s Kata first-half hat-trick of tries, the Warriors sealed an unlikely title after scraping into the finals in eighth place and then edging out the Broncos 34-32 in a thrilling grand final at ANZ Stadium.
The Warriors led second-placed Brisbane 22-6 at halftime and stretched that lead to 34-6 after 53 minutes before the Broncos launched an epic rearguard assault.
With prop Joe Ofahengaue taking it to the massive Warrriors pack and utility Jayden Nikorima a constant threat to the Kiwis’ defence, the Broncos scored five tries in 22 minutes to surge back into the contest.
Nikorima scored with two minutes on the clock to bring the score back to 34-32, but pushed the gettable conversion wide as the Warriors celebrated their third national youth crown since its inception in 2008.
The won the title 2010 and 2011 while they lost last year’s decider to Penrith.
The Warriors only qualified for the finals after a post-siren sideline conversion in the final round against Penrith secured a draw that sent them into the playoffs on percentages.
They then survived a month of sudden death football and the Broncos fightback in 30C heat to claim the unlikely premiership win.
“I’m really proud of the boys, we really stuck to it and to come from that far back to win it is a great achievement,” Jones told AAP.
“I always believed we could win it. We had the momentum, we had the confidence, but it was close there.
“We just couldn’t get our hands on the ball at the end, but we showed great resolve in defence there. “We made the finals by a conversion and won the grand final by a conversion.”
It was Warriors legend Jones’ first year coaching.
Brisbane coach Kurt Richards bemoaned the lead his side conceded the Warriors.
“I thought it was a great fightback but you can’t concede 34 points in a grand final and expect to win,” he said.
“The boys showed a lot of courage to come back but we needed to defend strongly in the first 20 minutes.
“We froze a bit at the beginning, once we settled into the game, I thought we were strong and coming over the top of them. We started playing our style but we ran out of time in the end.”