Memories of 2011 evoked

Simply irresistible ... Vodafone Junior Warriors standoff Tuimoala Lolohea scorches 80 metres for his intercept try, one of four touchdowns against the Roosters in Friday night's NYC semi-final against the Roosters. Photo: Photosport


Memories of the Vodafone Junior Warriors 2011 blitzkrieg campaign inevitably came flooding back as the 2013 model pounded the Sydney Roosters 58-6 in Friday nights NYC semi-final at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.


wo years ago the side cut a swathe through the competition in winning the minor premiership and following it up with a second straight premiership, albeit via a nervous golden point 31-30 win against North Queensland in the grand final.


En route, though, they were often exceptional losing only four games all season and seven times topping 50 points in a match, twice in the play-offs when they applied the blowtorch to Newcastle (54-6) and astonishingly produced a 64-0 victory over Canterbury-Bankstown to reach the grand final. As it turned out the title-winning field goal by Jordan Meads was the Vodafone Junior Warriors 1000th point of the year.


The 2011 team was brimful of weapons of rugby league destruction and the nature of last nights destruction of the Roosters harked back to those days. This was an exhibition based on an irresistible mix of skill, power and pace plus an adherence to the tried and true formula of first creating a foundation.


The need now will be to back it up against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium next Friday night (5.15pm kick-off local time) if the Vodafone Junior Warriors are to cement a third grand final appearance in the space of four years.


For now, though, this sizzling effort against the Roosters is worth savouring in a campaign when the Vodafone Junior Warriors operated for the latter part of the regular season without some of their senior players.


They were all being tested at the higher level with the Vulcans in the New South Wales but have returned for the finals; it has been clear to see the mental and physical demands of playing among more experienced players has helped them individually and by dint the Vodafone Junior Warriors as a team immeasurably. The steel David Bhana, Albert Vete and Raymond Faitala-Mariner brought to the side was critical in galvanising the side for last weeks come-from-behind 20-18 win against South Sydney and last night all three plus the returning Siliva Havili were to the fore in giving the Vodafone Junior Warriors some real steel and structure.


They were impressive from the get-go, immediately putting pressure on a Sydney Roosters side coming off a 22-48 trouncing a week earlier against Penrith. Fate didnt seem to look on them fondly as is the way too often when a would-be Havili try was debatably rubbed out. It didnt prove costly. Instead of the try, a strip was ruled with a goal-line dropout resulting, the Vodafone Junior Warriors hitting the Roosters from the repeat set with Vetes seventh try of the year in the 12th minute.


The evident dominance on the field took a few more minutes to manifest itself on the scoreboard but, once the switch went on, the Roosters were totally unable to resist raid after raid.


With his dazzling feet and pace Tuimoala Lolohea snared two tries in four minutes, the first after a Ngataua Hukatai bust supported by Mason Lino and the second when the robust Sam Lisone pushed his way through defenders and found Lolohea on his shoulder. Lisone was the beneficiary within a few minutes when Lino held up his pass beautifully to put the prop through a huge hold.


So halftime arrived with the Vodafone Junior Warriors in command at 22-0.

They relented momentarily in the second half by conceding a try but the last 37 minutes was all theirs as they stormed through and past the Roosters literally at will.


Lolohea had two more tries to give him four for the match and had a fifth in sight but selflessly offloaded inside for Kouma Samson to score the 10th and final try in the last minute. Named the clubs TNT NYC Young Player of the Year on Wednesday night, the Kelston Boys High School student now has 22 tries in 26 games in his rookie season.


Lino amassed 18 points converting nine of the 10 tries to take him past 100 points for the second season running.


Understandably the more detailed statistics were both compelling and instructive. The Vodafone Junior Warriors had 38 sets and completed 34 for an outstanding 89 per cent success rate while the Roosters had just 24 sets. That translated into 178 runs for the Vodafone Junior Warriors against only 108 for the home side while the metres gained was graphically tilted 1960-1105. So were the line breaks at 10-3, missed tackles 23-66 and tackles made 198-308.


On the individual front 10 players topped 100 metres with another four very close. With an 80-metre intercept factored in Tuimoala Lolohea made 238 metres from 15 runs, David Fusitua had 174 from 15, Faitala-Mariner 169 from 17, Viliami Lolohea 168 from 11, James Taylor 161 from 14, Bhana 137 from 12, Samson 137 from 13, Solomone Kata 126 from 10, Lisone 118 from 11 and Hukatai 111 from eight. There were tackle breaks galore as well.


After some recovery the work now starts again to tune up for the Bulldogs, wholl go into Fridays match after a week off following their first up win against minor premiers the Canberra Raiders. The Vodafone Junior Warriors will be seeking their 11th win in 15 finals matches.


The Roosters beat the Vodafone Junior Warriors twice earlier in the regular season, winning 24-20 at Eden Park in March and 31-26 at Allianz Stadium in June. They also knocked the Vodafone Junior Warriors out of the finals last year but tonights display more than avenged those setbacks.


While it didnt matter to the Vodafone Junior Warriors, it was a sorry end to the season for the Roosters as they shipped more than 100 points in two successive finals losses, defeated 22-48 by Penrith last week and now 6-58.


Match details:

At Allianz Stadium, Homebush

Sydney Roosters 6 (Samisoni Langi try; Samisoni Langi conversion).

Vodafone Junior Warriors 58 (Tuimoala Lolohea 4, Sam Lisone 2, Albert Vete, Eko Malu, Siliva Havili, Kouma Samson tries; Mason Lino 9 conversions).

Halftime: 22-0 Vodafone Junior Warriors.

Referees: Chris Butler and Chris Sutton.


Vodafone Junior Warriors: David Fusitua; Metia Lisati, Ngataua Hukatai, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Viliami Lolohea; Tuimoala Lolohea, Mason Lino; Albert Vete, Siliva Havili, James Taylor; Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Mason Lino; David Bhana (c). Interchange: Eko Malu, Sam Lisone, Kouma Samson, Solomone Kata.