Heart-breaker for Vodafone Junior Warriors
Saturday 11 August 2012 10:30 PM
A heart-breaking 28-32 last-second loss to North Queensland on Saturday night has left the Vodafone Junior Warriors in danger of losing their grip on top of the NYC points table.
With time almost up, the defending premiers were seemingly poised for victory leading 28-26 but, feeding off back-to-back penalties, the Cowboys had one last shot for glory – and they made it count by engineering a match-winner for fullback Zac Santo.
The result means the Vodafone Warriors are precariously placed on 33 points with Canberra and Canterbury-Bankstown able to go ahead of them with victory tomorrow. The Raiders (32) are away to fifth-placed Penrith (31) while the Bulldogs (31) take on 12th-placed Brisbane.
This was a cruel defeat in a contest which had ebbed and flowed in quite astonishing fashion.
It followed a sane pattern in the first half, the Vodafone Warriors leading 10-0 early on and going to halftime 14-8 ahead.
The second half was all over the place.
The Cowboys scored twice in a matter of minutes to lead 18-14 only for the Vodafone Junior Warriors to edge ahead 20-18 three minutes later with a Peta Hiku try converted by Mason Lino.
The lead lasted 10 minutes before it swayed back to North Queensland 22-20 in the 64th minute but, one minute later, captain John Palavi scored to have the Vodafone Junior Warriors leading again 24-22.
Another unconverted try had the home side 26-24 in front in the 71st minute before centre Ngani Laumape had his third try of the day to give his team a 28-26 advantage inside the last five minutes.
Less than 50 seconds remained and still the Vodafone Junior Warriors had their two-point lead – until imminent celebration turned to desolation after Santo scored.
If the outcome was distressing for the team as a whole it was even more galling for Laumape personally knowing his first hat-trick as a rugby league player had come in a losing display.
While they went into the match without the experienced Omar Slaimankhel and Ligi Sao as well as impressive rookie David Bhana, the early exchanges had been encouraging with tries to hooker Siliva Havili – his 13th of the season – and Laumape, whose treble would lift his tally for the year to 15 in 15 games.
At Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville
North Queensland Cowboys 32 (Jason Taumalolo 2, Samson O’Neill 2, Felise Kaufusi, Kyle Feldt, Zac Santo tries; Kyle Feldt 2 conversions).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 28 (Ngani Laumape 3, Siliva Havili, Peta Hiku, John Palavi tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions).
Halftime: 14-8 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Michael Gordon.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: David Fusitua; Ngataua Hukatai, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Ngani Laumape, Toka Likiliki; Peta Hiku, Mason Lino; Albert Vete, Siliva Havili, Nathaniel Peteru; Sio Siua Taukeiaho, John Palavi (c); Michael Sio. Interchange: Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Trent Bishop, James Taylor, Siulongoua Fotofili.