Another pulsating comeback win was just out of reach for the Vodafone Junior Warriors when they lost 38-40 to South Sydney in their 17th-round NYC clash at Redfern Oval in Sydney today.
The fourth-placed Auckland side had to draw on their recovery powers to beat the Brisbane Broncos last Sunday, hitting the visitors with two late tries to win 34-28.
Their predicament was even more extreme today as they found themselves down by 18 points at halftime and again twice in the second half.
After going to the break 12-30 behind following a frantic first half which yielded a total of eight tries and 42 points, the early pattern in the second term was very much a case of each side returning fire.
First the Vodafone Junior Warriors scored but just as quickly South Sydney replied. The pattern was repeated a few minutes later to leave the Rabbitohs still leading by 18 points 40-22 with 22 minutes to play.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors refused to be frustrated, though.
In the 62nd minute, hooker Siliva Havili put prop Albert Vete over for his sixth try of the season, Tuimoala Lolohea converting to leave the Vodafone Junior Warriors just 12 points in arrears 28-40 with plenty of time left.
The equation became even more favourable six minutes later when Vete offloaded and Havili set Lolohea free. The fullback shot through, beat the fullback to score his 13th try of the year and also added the conversion to have his side only 34-40 behind with 12 minutes still to play.
The odds were now definitely improving and shortened further when Eko Malu threw a great ball for Michael Sio to score out wide. While Loloheas conversion just missed to leave the score 38-40, there was still nine minutes to go, usually enough time for the Vodafone Junior Warriors to engineer a match-winner.
Try as they might it didnt come, though. The cumulative effect of being behind for so much of the match plus South Sydneys defensive desperation narrowly won the day for the home side in a match which produced an exceptional scoring rate throughout. Doubtless diehard purists would have a different view but those who believe points equals entertainment werent disappointed after a contest which produced a total of 15 tries and 78 points.
While Lolohea could have drawn the match with his final conversion attempt it could also be pointed out the Rabbitohs converted only four of their eight tries.
Earlier the Vodafone Junior Warriors had started confidently with an early James Taylor try only to lapse defensively as the Rabbitohs put on four tries in reply to lead 20-6 after only 20 minutes.
Despite the loss the Vodafone Junior Warriors remain fourth on the table as they head into their second bye before facing Wests Tigers, currently just one point behind them, at Leichhardt Oval on July 19.
At Redfern Oval, Sydney
South Sydney Rabbitohs 40 (Cameron McInnes 2, Aaron Gray, Bradley Croad, Jake Watts, Tyrone Phillips, Alex Johnston, Offa Felila tries; Cameron McInnes 4 conversions).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 38 (Michael Sio 2, James Taylor, Sam Cook, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Tuimoala Lolohea tries; Tuimoala Lolohea 5 conversions).
Halftime: 30-12 Rabbitohs.
Referee: Matt Noyen.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea; Metia Lisati, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, David Fusitua, Viliami Lolohea; Sam Cook, Eko Malu; Abraham Papalii, Siliva Havili, James Taylor; Sione Feao, Michael Sio; David Bhana (c). Interchange: Albert Vete, Toafofoa Sipley, Sam Lisone, Stedman Lefau.