NYC Finals - Vodafone Junior Warriors v Roosters
Friday 14 September 2012 2:00 PM
Nothing beats playing at home but if the Vodafone Junior Warriors were to nominate their favourite hunting ground they couldn’t be blamed if they opted for ANZ Stadium rather than their fortress at Mount Smart Stadium.
Reason is they’ve had nothing but success there, coming away from eight visits to Homebush with eight wins including, of course, their NYC grand final wins in 2010 and 2011.
Tomorrow night they face the Sydney Roosters (7.15pm NZ time; live on SKY Sport 2) in their sudden-death semi-final, their first appearance at ANZ Stadium since their 31-30 extra-time grand final win against North Queensland on October 2 last year.
The impressive record will be tested to the nth degree by a Roosters side bent on denying the Vodafone Junior Warriors the comeback win they’re seeking after last week’s devastating 38-39 loss to Canberra.
The Roosters don’t have a healthy record against the Vodafone Junior Warriors, beating them only once in eight clashes – 30-28 at Sydney Football Stadium (now Allianz Stadium) in 2009 – and drawing 28-28 when the two teams met in Sydney in March this year.
But the Jason Taylor-coached side has shown an ability to knock over top sides in the competition from time to time this season.
The young Roosters did just that at AAMI Park in Melbourne last Friday night.
After finishing seventh in the regular season they faced the sixth-placed South Sydney and sneaked a stunning 24-22 win with an 80th-minute try by New Plymouth-born centre Curtis Rona, his third of the match. They’d been down 16-22 with 25 minutes to play before Rona scored not only the match-winner but also his second try in the 66th minute to put them in for their extra-late assault.
If the Roosters’ desperate surge was impressive, the same couldn’t be said for their goal-kicking; they scored six tries but failed to convert one of them.
The Roosters’ form line since their second bye has fluctuated wildly from week to week.
A 14-14 draw with Cronulla in the 18th round was followed by a 36-30 home win against South Sydney, a 20-38 away loss to Penrith, a 30-16 win against Gold Coast (home), a 16-28 loss to St George Illawarra (home), a 42-12 victory over Parramatta (away), a 20-44 loss to Canberra (away), a 40-16 win against Wests Tigers (home), a 28-36 loss to Canterbury-Bankstown (away) and last week’s success against the Rabbitohs.
On the other hand, since losing 10-14 to Penrith in early June, the Vodafone Junior Warriors have had wins against Cronulla 24-18, North Queensland 48-16, Gold Coast 38-22, Brisbane 38-22, Newcastle 24-14 and Manly 42-22 followed by losses to Cronulla 10-40 and North Queensland 28-32 successes against Penrith 18-16, St George Illawarra 30-28 and Canberra 26-12 and finally last week’s loss to the Raiders.
The challenge for coach John Ackland and his players this week has been to rebound quickly from the disappointment of the last-second loss to the Raiders. The root cause of the defeat can readily be traced back to the poor opening when they leaked three tries in the first 13 minutes but, despite the horror start and another lapse in the second half, they recovered supremely well to lead 38-32 with four minutes left. In a blink the comeback came to nothing as Canberra was able to feed on an error and a penalty to steal the match from a group of physically spent young players.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors have only six days between their two finals as well as being forced to ensure two travel days (Monday and today) while the Roosters have been able to rest up with an eight-day gap between games.
When the Vodafone Junior Warriors were in the mood and the groove midway through the second half last Sunday they were an irresistible force with and without the ball but they know tomorrow night they’ll have to be locked and loaded from the outset. Another slow start will be unacceptable and tantamount to disaster.
The Roosters have ample danger men. Rona is obviously one of them while there’s sublime talent to call on in fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the ex-Otahuhu College student who was courted from all angles by both rugby league and rugby union last year. He’s had NRL experience this year and is unquestionably set for a big future; tomorrow night he’ll be an ever-present threat.
In props Kane Evans and Dylan Napa – son of former Auckland and Otahuhu forward Stan Napa – the Roosters have big men who will challenge the Vodafone Junior Warriors in the middle of the park.
Ackland’s players will need to be at their best to make it nine from nine at ANZ Stadium tomorrow night and stay in the race for a third straight appearance at the big dance on September 30.
Teams for the match are:
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Peta Hiku; Viliami Lolohea, Ngataua Hukatai, Ngani Laumape, David Fusitua; Carlos Tuimavave, Mason Lino; Ligi Sao, Siliva Havili, Siulongoua Fotofili; Sio Siua Taukeiaho, John Palavi (c); David Bhana. Interchange: Trent Bishop, Toka Likiliki, Nathaniel Peteru, Albert Vete, Omar Slaimankhel, James Taylor, Braxton Stanley
Sydney Roosters: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; Usaia O’Sullivan, Curtis Rona, Joseph Forrester, Paul Rokolati; Samisoni Langi, Ryley Jacks; Dylan Napa, Dean Blackman, Kane Evans; Rhyse Martin, Sam Bernstrom; Jack Noble. Interchange: Jack Siejka, Shaquille Blair, TuialaTogitasi, John Asiata
Referee: Grant Atkins
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS AT ANZ STADIUM
Beat North Queensland 31-30 (NYC grand final)
Beat South Sydney 38-18
Beat South Sydney 42-28 (NYC grand final)
Beat South Sydney 19-18
Beat Canterbury-Bankstown 36-30
Beat Canterbury-Bankstown 42-24
Beat South Sydney 26-20
Beat Canterbury-Bankstown 43-38