Vodafone Junior Warriors level at top
Monday 27 August 2012 9:01 AM
The Vodafone Junior Warriors moved level at the top of the ladder with a heart-stopping 30-28 victory against St George Illawarra in tonight’s 25th-round NYC clash at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
Once again, though, the defending premiers figured in a finish which had pulse rates racing.
They seemed comfortably-placed leading 30-16 with 13 minutes to play only for the Dragons to snare a 67th minute try to come back to 22-30.
If there were some concerns then nerves were really jangling when the home side scored again to trim the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ lead to 30-28 with three minutes still to play.
It was shades of what unfolded at Dairy Farmers Stadium two weeks ago when the Vodafone Junior Warriors led North Queensland 28-26 heading into the final two minutes only to be undone as the Cowboys sneaked a 32-28 victory.
Fortunately there was no repeat this time as the Vodafone Junior Warriors held firm to secure a second two-point win in consecutive games after withstanding a late rally to edge out Penrith 18-16 at Mount Smart Stadium last Sunday.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors began confidently with a converted Sio Siua Taukeiaho try for a 6-0 lead and, after allowing the Dragons to hit back, they soon restored their six-point buffer through the first of Albert Vete’s two tries.
The big front rower had only just been thrown into the fray from the bench when he went across on the right edge, Mason Lino again converting.
Too soon the Dragons scored again but the 12-10 lead stretched to eight points on the back of strong defence from centre Braxton Stanley, playing his first NYC match since March. He forced the ball loose and, from the resulting scrum set, fullback Omar Slaimankhel scored his 46th NYC try with Lino converting to make it 18-10 at halftime.
The second half was just two minutes old when Vete dragged St George Illawarra tacklers across the line with him for his second try before the margin was again back to eight points – 24-16 – on the back of another Dragons try.
A Peta Hiku bomb was dropped giving the Vodafone Junior Warriors an attacking scrum and the opportunity to create a try for captain John Palavi for what looked like a useful 30-16 lead with 22 minutes to play. That was until the Dragons had hearts fluttering again with their late rally.
With the victory, the Vodafone Junior Warriors moved up to 37 points, level at the top of the table with Canterbury-Bankstown but second on points for and against.
If they’re to win the minor premiership, the Vodafone Junior Warriors would need the Bulldogs to lose or draw against the Sydney Roosters next Saturday night and then they would need to beat Canberra at Mount Smart Stadium the next day.
At WIN Stadium, Wollongong
St George Illawarra Dragons 28 (Blake Phillips, Charly Runciman, Kyle Martens, Kayne Brennan, Craig Garvey tries; Daniel Burke 4 conversions).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 30 (Albert Vete 2, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Omar Slaimankhel, John Palavi tries; Mason Lino 5 conversions).
Halftime: 18-10 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Gavin Reynolds.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Omar Slaimankhel; Viliami Lolohea, Braxton Stanley, Ngani Laumape, David Fusitua; Peta Hiku, Mason Lino; Ligi Sao, Siliva Havili, Siulongoua Fotofili; Sio Siua Taukeiaho, John Palavi (c); David Bhana: Interchange: Trent Bishop, Albert Vete, Atu Tupou, Toka Likiliki.