The Vodafone Warriors made it back-to-back successes when they overcame a heavy injury toll and a lopsided penalty count to outlast Canterbury-Bankstown 18-14 in today’s sixth-round New South Wales Cup encounter at Eden Park.
By the end of the match the Vodafone Warriors were down to one player on the bench while one penalty count favoured the Bulldogs by a healthy margin of 12-5.
Despite those handicaps the home side, fortified by the vastly-experienced Feleti Mateo and standoff Chad Townsend, fought back from 12-14 to take the lead just 10 minutes from time and then held on gamely for the two competition points.
After being used at NRL level until now Mateo and Townsend had their first taste today of playing in the Vodafone Warriors’ new NSW Cup side.
Townsend steered the team around well in combination with the talented young Tuimoala Lolohea while Mateo’s deft touches were evident, opening the Bulldogs up to create all three tries. Especially sweet was the off load which laid on Tuimoala’s match-winning try after the Bulldogs had led 14-12 since the opening minutes of the second half.
Coach Rohan Smith later commended the players for the way they’d battled in a grinding contest to first stay in it and then secure the two competition points.
This was a game not short on players with big reputations. Apart from Mateo, the other big names on the field were all in Canterbury-Bankstown’s line-up – Kiwi and former Vodafone Warriors centre Krisnan Inu, giant Kiwi prop Sam Kasiano and second rower Reni Maitua.
The Vodafone Warriors fell 0-4 down early on, recovered to hold a 6-4 advantage through a Raymond Faitala-Mariner try, went 6-8 behind six minutes from halftime but then took the lead right on halftime when fullback Steve Waetford ran a great line onto a Mateo pass to score between the posts. With Townsend’s conversion they had a 12-8 lead in what was an intense slugfest, if punctuated by a higher error count than either coach would have liked.
With just one win so far, the Bulldogs went back in front 14-12 soon after halftime and still had their snouts in front entering the last 10 minutes.
Gradually the Vodafone Warriors, defending their errors and scrambling well, bit back at the Dogs to earn the opportunity through Lolohea’s try to take the lead and clinch their second win of the season. With two points from the bye and a draw with Illawarra they remain seventh on the points table on seven points.
The outcome told nothing of the issues Smith and his players were forced to contend with.
The Vodafone Warriors had gone into the match showing just one change from the line-up originally named, NYC winger Metia Lisati coming into the side to make his New South Wales Cup debut after Carlos Tuimavave was ruled out with injury.
Unfortunately Lisati was himself injured in the second half, forced to leave the field with an ankle injury while accomplished fullback Steve Waetford was another victim when he had to leave the field after a heavy collision. With the bench packed with forwards it took some reshuffling to fill the gaps created by the pair’s absence but the patched-up combination worked heroically to frustrate the Bulldogs.
Next up for the Vodafone Warriors is Illawarra next week, the Cutters lying second two points ahead on nine. When the two teams met at Eden Park last month they finished locked at 12-12.
At Eden Park, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 18 (Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Steve Waetford, Tuimoala Lolohea tries; Chad Townsend 3 conversions).
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14 (Krisnan Inu, Tyrone Phillips, Jaline Graham tries; Jaline Graham conversion).
Halftime: 12-8 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Shane Rehm.
Vodafone Warriors: Steve Waetford (c); Jarred Wilson, David Fusitua, Jarrod Tua, Metia Lisati; Chad Townsend, Tuimoala Lolohea; Nathaniel Peteru, Michael Sio, Upu Poching; John Palavi, Raymond Faitala Mariner; Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Agnatius Paasi, Albert Vete, Sam Lousi, Abraham Papalii.