Vodafone Junior Warriors take outright lead
Sunday 29 July 2012 4:39 PM
Former schoolboy rugby union players Ngani Laumape and Ngataua Hukatai scored two tries each as the Vodafone Junior Warriors claimed outright first place with their 42-22 win over Manly in today’s 21st-round NYC clash at Brookvale Oval in Sydney.
The 2010-2011 premiers’ sixth straight win lifted them to 33 points – two points clear of Penrith – and on track to win the NYC’s minor premiership for the second season on end.
Laumape and Hukatai were both in the 2011 New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby union side, Laumape out of Palmerston North Boys’ High School and Hukatai from King’s College.
Since switching codes they have both acquitted themselves impressively in the NYC. Hukatai was on the wing initially but now plays in the centres with Laumape. With his double Laumape, after a late start to the season, has 10 tries in 13 matches so far while Hukatai has 10 in 18.
While today’s final margin was ultimately comfortable on the scoreboard it was by no means a cruise.
The contest became an arm wrestle from the outset, the Vodafone Junior Warriors not scoring until the 20th minute when prop Ligi Sao went across between the posts.
The try wasn’t the trigger for a familiar spree, though, Manly locking it up 6-6 before the visitors scored twice in the last few minutes of the half. The first followed a repeat set after a penalty, robust hooker Trent Bishop over between the posts, and then Laumape grabbed his first out on the left edge, Lino converting both for an 18-6 lead and also bringing up 100 points for the season.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors were on their way, even more so when they engineered tries for fullback Peta Hiku and loose forward David Bhana in the opening eight minutes of the second half. Lino added another two conversions and suddenly the score had blown out to 30-6.
There was a lull when Manly checked the damage to pull back to 12-30 only for the premiers to go to 34-12 when Lino’s splendid long ball gave Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard a try out in the right corner in the 60th minute.
As had happened when the Vodafone Junior Warriors had similar leads against Gold Coast and Brisbane, they seemed to ease off a little, allowing Manly to hit them with two tries to trail 22-34 with eight minutes to play.
There was no need to worry, though.
In the 75th minute , Omar Slaimankhel flicked a long pass to Toka Likiliki, who offloaded in the tackle to hand Laumape his second try out wide on the left, and on fulltime Hukatai had his second in the right-hand corner. Lino failed with both conversions but in a blink the winning margin blew out to 22 points.
With 570 points scored, the Vodafone Junior Warriors are averaging 30 a game – three teams are ahead of them on that count – but, while they again conceded 22 points again today, defence is the team’s real strength with the fewest points conceded (388) in the competition.
Next Sunday the Vodafone Junior Warriors are home to Cronulla, which upset the second-placed Penrith Panthers 30-24 last night.
At Brookvale Oval, Sydney
Manly Sea Eagles 22 (Kayse Greer, Josh Drinkwater, Theo Leato, Jake Busby tries; Josh Drinkwater 3 conversions).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 42 (Ngani Laumape 2, Ngataua Hukatai 2, Ligi Sao, Trent Bishop, Peta Hiku, David Bhana; Mason Lino 5 conversions).
Halftime: 18-6 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Adam Cassidy.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Peta Hiku; Toka Likiliki, Ngani Laumape, Ngataua Hukatai, David Fusitua; Omar Slaimankhel, Mason Lino; Ligi Sao, Siliva Havili (c), Nathaniel Peteru; Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard; David Bhana. Interchange: Siulongoua Fotofili, Trent Bishop, Albert Vete, James Taylor.