Neither side could afford to lose, in this desperate battle between 14th and 15th with either the New Zealand Warriors or Brisbane Broncos potentially falling to the foot of the ladder by the end of the weekend.
Things started badly for the Warriors as Tevita Pangai Junior flattened Kodi Nikorima with a barraging run.
This meant the Kiwi half-back had to leave the field and ultimately failed his Head Injury Assessment.
Five minutes later, after a few set restarts and a goal-line drop-out, the Broncos opened the scoring.
Quick hands from Brodie Croft and Tesi Niu gave Xavier Coates plenty of room the slide over in the corner to score.
The Warriors cam close again just after the 15th minute, as Tesi Niu and Jaymayne Isaako combined on the left-edge to get within metres of the Warriors line but three defenders bundled Niu into touch.
Just after the 20th minute, Xavier Coates cleaned up a Blake Green kick and raced 50-metres upfield to put the Broncos on the front-foot.
As a try looked imminent, Anthony Milford threw a late offload which bounced into the hands of the Warriors who charged back down to the Brisbane 20-metre line.
After a few minutes of trying to break through the Broncos line, Karl Lawton attempted on offload that was never on, which was pounced on by Coates who did manage to run the length of the field this time for the second of the night.
Isaako converted to make it 0-10 with just under half an hour gone.
With just four minutes of the half remaining, the Warriors should have picked up a try to close the gap.
Chanel Harris-Tevita had the ball and just had to pop the ball onto Ken Maumalo to score, unfortunately, the pass from Harris-Tevita was a makeshift effort after Coates rushed up onto the half-back.
This meant the ball to Maumalo dropped short of the winger who only managed to get his fingertips to in and a knock-on occurred.
Moments later, Maumalo did get his try as a quick catch and pass from Gerard Beale gave the winger room to run at Tesi Niu, and twist in the tackle to drop on the line to score on the break.
Harris-Tevita then converted from the sideline to narrow the gap to four.
HALF-TIME: New Zealand Warriors 6-10 Brisbane Broncos
The second period started badly for the Broncos as Isaac Luke’s head slammed against the floor after just three minutes, the hooker left the field for his HIA.
Multiple penalties and set restarts later, Agnatius Paasi received a short ball from Wayde Egan to crash under the posts to level the scores.
After a strong start to the second period for the Warriors, the Broncos began to work themselves back into the game.
With 25 minutes of the game to go, Anthony Milford’s high kick from 45 metres was lost in the air by Peta Hiku and was allowed to bounce twice by the full-back and then Maumalo, which allowed Herbie Farnworth to grab the ball out of the air and drop onto the floor to score for the second round in a row.
The good news for the Broncos continued as Isaac Luke passed his HIA and returned to the field.
Despite falling behind once more, the Warriors refused to give up.
After a 40/20 from Blake Green, the home side were deep inside the Broncos half and they shifted the ball left to give David Fusitu’a the room in the right-hand corner to score.
The Broncos challenged the call because Anthony Milford was taken accidentally by Corey Oates which caused him to be obstructed in the defensive line and the try was disallowed.
It didn’t take long for the Warriors to leave up though.
After forcing a goal-line drop-out, they charged upfield and after Wade Egan spotted Milford was offside, he used to strength and guile to get through a desperate Broncos defence to slam the ball down.
Harris-Tevita converted to make 18-16 with ten minutes on the clock.
The Warriors looked to wrap the game up with seven minutes to go, as Ken Maumalo powered past Coates in the right-hand edge, and despite the desperate grab at the shorts from the Broncos winger, it wasn’t enough as Maumalo grounded the ball a split second before going over the touchline.
With three minutes to go, Tom Dearden knocked on from his own 10-metre defensive scrum, which was followed by a differential penalty.
From the resulting penalty, Isaiah Papali’i bounced through three separate tackles from Brisbane to secure the two points for the Warriors.
FULL-TIME: New Zealand Warriors 26-16 Brisbane Broncos
New Zealand Warriors
Hiku, Fusitu’a, Herbert, Beale, Maumalo, Nikorima, Green, Taunoa-Brown, Egan, Blair, Murchie, Lawton, Harris
Interchanges: Paasi, Harris-Tevita, Hetherington, Papali’i
Tries: Maumalo (2), Paasi, Egan, Papali’i
Goals: Harris-Tevita (4/5)
Niu, Isaako, Farnworth, Boyd, Coates, Milford, Croft, Haas, Luke, Flegler, Glenn, Pangai Junior, Carrigan
Interchanges: Dearden, Kennedy, Te’o, Oates
Tries: Coates (2), Farnworth
Goals: Isaako (2/3)
Referee: C. Butler
Touch Judges: T. Smith, G. Badger
Video Referee: B. Norrie
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)