Vodafone Junior Warriors interchange forward Toafofoa Sipley snared a second half double in Sunday's NYC clash against Parramatta. Photo: www.photosport.co.nz
A three-try second half comeback wasn’t enough to prevent the Vodafone Junior Warriors falling 24-50 to the Eels in tonight’s first-round NYC encounter at Pirtek Stadium.
New coach Stacey Jones fielded a side which included only two players – Mason Lino and James Taylor – who boasted more than 20 NYC games while eight of the team were on debut.
The new-look combination took time to settle and, like the club’s New South Wales Cup side on Saturday, the Vodafone Junior Warriors were all too soon looking at a scoreboard which showed the home side leading 16-0.
From such a parlous position there was much to admire in the way the young side rallied twice to eventually surge back to be within four points of the Eels.
In his debut back rower James Bell scored and Mason Lino converted to pull their side back to 6-16 before Parramatta struck twice either side of halftime to stretch to a 28-6.
The outlook may have appeared gloomy but now the Vodafone Junior Warriors found their range by stitching together a three-try salvo, debutant Brad Abbey starting it and fellow St Paul’s College product Toafofoa Sipley adding back to back tries. Lino converted all three and in a blink Parramatta led just 28-24.
When more was needed the Vodafone Junior Warriors were denied as the Eels clicked up a gear to finish the match off with 22 unanswered points for a 26-point winning margin.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors now face the task of rebounding against St George Illawarra in the second leg of next Saturday’s tripleheader at Eden Park. Like their NRL side, the young Dragons will arrive in Auckland confident after blitzing Wests Tigers 46-14.
At Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
Parramatta Eels 50 (Tepai Moeroa 2, Halauafu Lavaka, Joey Lussic, Tepai Junior Mauala, Nathan Davis, Fabian Goodall, Ryan Matterson, Josh Aloiai tries; Nathan Davis 7 conversions)
Vodafione Junior Warriors 24 (Toafofoa Sipley 2, James Bell, Brad Abbey tries; Mason Lino 4 conversions).
Halftime: 22-6 Eels.
Referee: Lawrence McDonnell
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; George Edwards, Lafu Feagaiga, Ken Maumalo, Braxton Stanley; Nathaniel Roache, Mason Lino (c); Jordan Baldwinson, Kurt Robinson, James Taylor; Michael Ki, Matiu Love-Henry; Kouma Samson. Interchange: James Bell, Semisi Tyrell, Toafofoa Sipley, Mason Tonks.