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Celebration time for prop Sam Lisone after the Vodafone Junior Warriors' gritty NYC elimination final win againsst South Sydney. Photo: Photosport

The Vodafone Junior Warriors completed a remarkable six-day turnaround to stay alive in the NYC finals with a courageous 20-18 win over South Sydney in Friday nights NYC elimination final at ANZ Stadium.

The 2010-2011 premiers hadnt been in their best shape, losing three of their last four matches including a humiliating 4-48 defeat by St George Illawarra just six days ago.

From being inside the competitions top four they slipped to finish the regular season in sixth spot although still standing alone as the only club to have made the finals in each of the NYCs six seasons in existence.

If they faced a challenge to advance beyond week one in this years title hunt the mission seemed to become even more difficult when they conceded two tries inside the last nine minutes of the first half to trail 4-14 at the break.

Theyd scored first when fullback David Fusitua expertly latched onto a Mason Lino bomb for a sixth-minute try but Souths then put on a run of 14 points without reply.

The second half mirrored the arm wrestles the Vodafone Junior Warriors had endured recently without winning against the likes of Canberra and Penrith.

Boosted by the return of some of their more experienced campaigners, they gradually began to impose themselves through tightening up both their ball control and their defence.

They were also able to gain an edge in possession as they completed 18 of 22 sets in the second half (the Rabbitohs had only 16 sets) and their metres gained stats were vastly superior (999-520). While they boasted only two line breaks all night both in the second half they allowed South Sydney none in the second half and forced their opponents to make 80 more second half tackles (123-203).

It helped them to bite back into the contest and gradually to translate it into a difference on the scoreboard, first Tuimoala Lolohea showing off his footwork for his 18th try of the season in the 52nd minute and right winger Metia Lisati levelling it up at 14-14 eight minutes later.

It remained that way for only seven minutes when the Vodafone Junior Warriors gifted Christian Hazard a try wide out after some chaotic work trying to cover a kick.

The Vodafone Junior Warriors had just 13 minutes left to save their season. They found relief in the 72nd minute through Adam Tuimvave-Gerrard when he hunted down a deft Lolohea grubber with Lino converting impressively to give his side a 20-18 lead.

There was the strongest sense listening to the television commentators that their preference was for South Sydney to steal the result in the closing minutes. They certainly willed the Rabbitohs to come through; alas for them the Vodafone Junior Warriors hung in and came away with their first play-off victory since winning the premiership in 2011 (they lost both finals matches last year).

A strong point tonight was the number of sets they had (completing 29 of 40) helped by a 9-6 penalty count in their favour and some solid contributions from a number of individuals.

Fusitua was prominent throughout, carrying the ball 260 metres from 20 runs while Albert Vete (140), Metia Lisati (136), James Taylor (127), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (119), Sam Lisone (110), Ngataua Hukatai (107) and Kouma Samson (104) all gained more than 100 metres as well. David Bhana (44), Michael Sio (35) and Faitala-Mariner (35) were the defensive rocks.

The Vodafone Junior Warriors record in 13 finals matches is now 9-4. This latest win leaves them in line to play the losers of Saturdays qualifying final between second-placed Penrith and the third-placed Sydney Roosters.

Match details:

(6) Vodafone Junior Warriors 20 (David Fusitua, Tuimoala Lolohea, Metia Lisati, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions).

(7) South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 (Siosaia Tanginoa, Aaron Gray, Ofa Felila, Christian Hazard tries; Aaron Gray conversion).

Halftime: 14-4 Rabbitohs.

Referees: Dave Munro and Matt Noyen.

Vodafone Junior Warriors: David Fusitua; Metia Lisati, Ngataua Hukatai, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Lafu Feagaiga; Tuimoala Lolohea, Mason Lino; Albert Vete, Michael Sio, James Taylor; Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Stedman Lefau; David Bhana (c). Interchange: Eko Malu, Sam Lisone, Kouma Samson, Solomone Kata.
Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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