For the second week running the Vodafone Warriors had to play the catch-up game today and this time it returned some sort of dividend, albeit a 12-12 draw with St George Illawarra in their second-round New South Wales Cup clash at Eden Park.
After giving up a 0-16 lead early last week, the Vodafone Warriors were in a similarly generous mood today but had the wherewithal to come back once more.
On this day football wasn’t the sole focus; so was the weather, specifically the influence Cyclone Lusi would have on proceedings.
As it happened the storm’s effects weren’t as pronounced as they might have been in the first match of the day but nonetheless playing conditions were at best trying.
The Cutters generated a perfect storm with back-to-back tries to centre Charlie Runciman and fullback Peter Mata’utia through their left edge, both achieved with rather too much ease.
Standoff Sam Duggan nailed both conversions superbly for a 12-0 lead after 17 minutes.
The home side did little for its cause through continually turning possession over in the admittedly difficult conditions but the players hung in, kept defending well – even heroically – and eventually hit pay dirt.
First they hit a short side on the left near the line, Konrad H defensive line up nicely to give Wellingtonian Jarred Wilson – signed from Penrith – his third try in two games. Tuimoala Lolohea’s conversion from wide out was beautifully judged to make it 6-12 just seven minutes into the second half.
Even allowing for the Vodafone Warriors’ riposte, it could be argued the Cutters should have put the contest to bed at differing stages of the second half but had three would-be tries denied through the Vodafone Warriors’ desperate last-ditch scrambling defence. Each time the Cutters were over the line and in the process of putting the ball down to score only to lose possession.
The Vodafone Warriors weren’t without opportunities either but they wanted for some accuracy with their finishing touches.
Finally reward arrived in the 76th minute when the Vodafone Warriors stitched together a wonderful try founded on some slick passing to set Wilson up for his fourth try of the season. Again Lolohea’s conversion was sensational.
Now it was 12-12 with about three minutes to play.
The Vodafone Warriors were hunting down victory in a frantic finish. They set up for one field goal attempt which was well off target and then had two more attempts in the final seconds which weren’t at all close.
In the circumstances there was much to like for the Vodafone Warriors in coming out of this encounter with a point from the draw. It was the least they deserved after their battling second half effort.
They now have their first bye of the season next weekend before resuming their programme against Wests Tigers at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday, March 29.
At Eden Park, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 12 (Jarred Wilson 2 tries; Tuimoala Lolohea 2 conversions).
Illawarra Cutters 12 (Charlie Runciman, Peter Mata’utia tries; Sam Duggan 2 conversions).
Halftime: 12-0 Cutters.
Referee: Aaron Donald.
Vodafone Warriors: Steve Waetford (c); Jarred Wilson, Konrad Hurrell, Agnatius Paasi, Ngani Laumape; Carlos Tuimavave, Tuimoala Lolohea; Charles P Gubb, Michael Sio, Upu Poching; Dominique Peyroux, Raymond Faitala-Mariner; Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Nathaniel Peteru, David Bhana, Siliva Havili, Abraham Papalii.