Collision between Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jason Taumalolo mars New Zealand Warriors’ clash with North Queensland Cowboys

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A brutal collision between two of the biggest mountains of muscle in the NRL marred the Warriors’ 24-20 win over the Cowboys – and New Zealand’s fans were left fuming.

Cowboys captain Jason Taumalolo took a hit-up in the 66th minute and clashed heads with Warriors second-rower Ben Murdoch-Masila, before thudding his left forearm into his face as he crashed to the turf.

A sea of Warriors fans erupted as replays on the big screen showed that Taumalolo had appeared to purposefully strike Murdoch-Masila with his forearm moments after the head collision, which had left the bulldozing Warrior flat on his back.

Murdoch-Masila left play for a head injury assessment and didn’t return.

“A big collision there,” said former Penrith Panthers captain Greg Alexander on Fox League’s coverage.

“Boy, there are some big bodies in that. Ben Murdoch-Masila and Taumalolo. It’s a head clash.”

Play-by-play commentator Warren Smith added: “Warriors fans here in Gosford are not happy about the action of Taumalolo as he came down with a forearm extended and got Ben Murdoch-Masila.”

A much brighter theme of the match saw rookie mid-season Warriors recruit Reece Walsh produce another scintillating performance to steer his side back to the winners’ list.

The 18-year-old former Bronco, who made his NRL debut against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park on Anzac Day, was swapped from fullback to five-eighth to partner Kody Nikorima in the halves.

And he registered one try assist, made a linebreak, racked up 103 metres and continually challenged the Cowboys’ defence with his exceptional running game.

While it reaped no points due to a Josh Curran knock-on, Walsh produced a magnificent second-half passage of play on the left edge.

The speedster swooped on a loose ball at top pace, beat superstar fullback Valentine Holmes with brilliant footwork, turned veteran winger Kyle Feldt inside-out with more stellar agility and linked with Ken Maumalo, who crossed just inside the corner post.

The Warriors rocketed to an 18-0 lead inside the first 21 minutes of the game and took a 24-4 advantage into the break.

And although Cowboys five-eighth Scott Drinkwater would carve out a second-half masterclass to drag his side to within four points, the Warriors held the visitors off to end North Queensland’s three-game winning streak.

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