A sizzling recovery came to nothing when the Auckland Vulcans went down 16-17 to Illawarra in a thrilling end to Saturdays New South Wales Cup match at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
For an hour of the contest the Vulcans couldnt make an impact on the scoreboard, failing to mount pressure as they turned over possession and missed out on a number of opportunities.
The Cutters kept to their knitting, grinding their way to a 10-0 lead at halftime and stretching out to 16-0 advantage early in the second spell.
There was always an expectation the Vulcans would deliver some joy and at last it came in the shape of a dazzling individual effort, second rower John Palavi stepping his way past and powering through multiple defenders to score. With Sio Siua Taukeiahos conversion it was very much game-on at 6-16.
And it became emphatically so with two more strikes soon after, the ball kept alive to the right for Tangi Ropati to score followed by a Jerome Ropati effort when he chased down a Zoram Watene grubber. With the latter try converted it was all locked up at 16-16, the momentum palpably swinging the Vulcans way.
There was still enough time to snare the match-winner for either side.
One minute the Cutters went downfield, set up for a field goal and it struck an upright; moments later there was an action replay at the other end of the field when the Vulcans had a field goal attempt.
However, with less than two minutes to go, heartbreak arrived when the lower-ranked Cutters broke the deadlock, Josh Drinkwater on song to give his side a one-point lead.
The Vulcans went for a short restart trying to gain possession but it wasnt to be as they fell to a disappointing one-point defeat.
They remain in the top eight but will need to rediscover winning touch when they face Wentworthville on Mount Smart Stadiums No 2 ground at 11.00am next Saturday. The match is the first of a quadruple dose of football followed by three matches on the stadiums main arena starting with the Vodafone Junior Warriors taking on Cronulla at followed by the College Rugby League Warriors Cup grand final and then the NRL encounter between the Vodafone Warriors and the Sharks.
At WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Illawarra Cutters 17 (Damien Cook, Gus Aiga, Shane Pumipi tries; Josh Drinkwater 2 conversions, field goal).
Auckland Vulcans 16 (John Palavi, Tangi Ropati, Jerome Ropati tries; Sio Siua Taukeiaho 2 conversions).
Halftime: 10-0 Cutters.
Referee: Phil Henderson.
Vulcans: Steve Waetford; Tangi Ropati, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Jerome Ropati, Zoram Watene; Carlos Tuimavave, Pita Godinet; Daniel Palavi, Alehana Mara, Sebastine Ikahihifo; John Palavi, Raymond Faitala-Mariner; David Bhana. Interchange: Siliva Havili, Nathaniel Peteru, Albert Vete, Visesio Peteru.