The Auckland Vulcans pulled off their biggest win of the season by handing competition leader Cronulla its first loss of the season in todays New South Wales Cup clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
In an enthralling contest, the Vulcans had to hang in until the closing minutes to find an opening for what proved to be the match-winning try.
The Sharks, on the back of 15 straight wins, had recovered from a 10-12 halftime deficit to lead 16-12 with 18 minutes to play but the Vulcans stayed in the arm wrestle all the way.
Finally the game changer came with six minutes to play, fullback Tangi Ropati sneaking across cleverly from dummy half midway between the posts and the touchline.
With the scores tied up at 16-16, the heat was on Vodafone Warriors winger Ngani Laumape. Originally named in the NRL side this week, Laumape was on Vulcans duty instead and now had everything hanging on his hitherto unknown goal-kicking skills. He produced all that was needed, putting the Vulcans ahead 18-16, a lead they managed to protect just.
In the final seconds the Sharks had the line at their mercy but bombed the chance to steal the result so giving the Vulcans a victory to savour after suffering an ignominious 10-48 shellacking earlier in the campaign.
The win took the Vulcans to fifth spot temporarily at least. It was all the more meritorious due to the Vulcans fielding such a young and inexperienced side. Four players David Fusitua, David Bhana, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Albert Vete were all promoted from the Vodafone Junior Warriors joining a line-up which also included two other NYC eligible players in Laumape and hooker Siliva Havili. Another seven players in the squad were former Vodafone Junior Warriors.
The afternoon hadnt started well as the Vulcans fell 0-10 behind but they came back into it when Vodafone Warrior Sam Lousi shelled a nice off load for halfback Steve Waetford to score, Sio Siua Taukeiaho converting to cut the margin to 6-10.
In the minutes leading up to halftime, the Vulcans repelled repeats sets on their line, finally forcing an error 10 metres from their line. Laumape swooped on the loose ball and then set off for the line 90 metres away, just keeping the chasers at bay to get the ball over the line. Taukeiahos conversion had his side just in front 12-10 against a Cronulla side including Vodafone Warriors-bound half Chad Townsend.
The opening stanza of the second half was a classic grind with the Vulcans with the Sharks gaining the advantage first but the Vulcans coming up with the games telling moment.
At Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Auckland Vulcans 18 (Steve Waetford, Ngani Laumape, Tangi Ropati tries; Sio Siua Taukeiaho 2 conversions; Ngani Laumape conversion).
Cronulla Sharks 16 (Pat Politoni, Stewart Mills, Kirisome Auvaa tries; Chad Townsend 2 conversions).
Halftime: 12-10 Vulcans.
Referee: Phil Henderson.
Vulcans: Tangi Ropati; Ngani Laumape, Jerome Ropati, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, David Fusitua; Carlos Tuimavave, Steve Waetford; Charlie Gubb, Alehana Mara, Sebastine Ikahihifo; John Palavi, Sam Lousi; David Bhana. Interchange: Siliva Havili, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Albert Vete, Nathaniel Peteru.