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Auckland Nines: Warriors move into semis

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Update: 4:30PM The Warriors remain on course in their crack at the inaugural Auckland Nines title, beating the Rabbitohs to progress to the semifinals.

After they edged Cowboys earlier this afternoon to finish pool play unbeaten, the Warriors delighted the Eden Park crowd with a 17-16 victory over South Sydney.

The win was their narrowest of the Warriors' four so far in the competition but the home side controlled much of the match and established a large enough lead to fend off a late fightback from the Bunnies.

The Warriors will play the winner of the fourth quarter-final, between the Panthers and the Cowboys, in the semifinals at 6.10pm. The former opponent would see them come up against former coach Ivan Cleary, while the latter would be a rematch of the Warriors' final pool game, which they won 28-23.

The first semifinal, to be played at 5.45pm, will see the Broncos face the Sharks, after Brisbane beat the Knights 16-11 and Cronulla edged the Eels 17-6 in the quarter-finals.The Warriors will be confident of progressing past whoever they come up against in the final four, based on current form. The bookies' favourites have been the most expansive side on attack throughout the competition, with their only concern being a propensity to leak tries.

That almost cost them late on against the Rabbitohs, with the clock coming to the Warriors' rescue at the death.

The home side had staked themselves to a 17-4 lead, as tries from Glenn Fisiiahi, Ngani Laumape and Shaun Johnson established control. But a pair of late tries from the Rabbitohs saw them close within one, with the clock allowing only a kick-off, safely claimed by Sam Tomkins.

The key moment proved to be a bit of foresight from Johnson for his try. With a clear path to the line, the halfback opted to step inside one last defender and dive behind the left upright, dotting down barely inside the five-point zone and giving the Warriors the slight edge the eventually needed.

Earlier, the Warriors' victory over the Cowboys in their final group game was not quite as commanding as their two wins yesterday, sealed only when Johnson scored his side's fifth try with two minutes left.

The Cowboys crossed for a late try of their own but, with the hooter sounding as Antonio Winterstein went over in the corner, the Warriors progressed to the quarter-finals with a perfect record in the yellow pool.

With fellow day one unbeaten teams Parramatta beaten by the Broncos and Penrith pipped by the Rabbitohs in their final pool games, the Warriors were the only side to advance with three wins.

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