A potent first half display propelled the Vodafone Junior Warriors to their fourth win in their last five starts – and a sense of redemption – as they took out St George Illawarra 36-12 in today’s seventh-round NYC clash at WIN Jubilee Oval in Sydney.
When the two teams met at Eden Park on March 15 the Dragons finished 24 points ahead with a 40-16 victory but today it was the Vodafone Junior Warriors with the 24-point winning margin.
The platform was built on a compelling opening 36 minutes which yielded five tries to give the 2013 beaten NYC grand finalists a commanding 24-0 lead.
Barrelling prop Sam Lisone was the first to dent the Dragons’ defence before Lafu Feagaiga, called in on the right wing, produced some nifty footwork to score wide out.
Second rower Michael Ki scored his fifth try of the season and one of his easiest before he combined with Lisone and Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard to create the first of Lino’s two tries.
Next to add his name to the list was last week’s debutant Tomas Aoake, also known by the surname of Patelesio.
He dazzled everyone at Eden Park last week, not least the Canterbury-Bankstown defenders, with his finishing skills when he scored two tries with little room to move in. He did it again today and fooled the match officials in the process.
Hurling himself at the line in a flurry of arms and legs it seemed there was a fair chance he might have got the ball down just in time. The touch judge made a call that he’d gone into touch first. The Vodafone Junior Warriors didn’t agree, especially not Aoake who was supremely confident. Captain Mason Lino exercised his right by challenging the decision and the upshot was another four-pointer.
At 24-0 the Vodafone Junior Warriors were making the most of the brisk wind they were playing with although they wouldn’t have been pleased conceding a try right on halftime.
The elements were in the Dragons’ favour in the second half and they did all they could to work their way back into the encounter. Maybe there was a glimmer of hope for them when centre Euan Aitken scored his second and the third tries despite plenty of defensive attention. At 24-12 the Vodafone Junior Warriors certainly weren’t safe but two thrusts in the last eight minutes stitched it up properly.
Lino took on the line and beat multiple defenders to snare his second try in the 72nd minutes to make it 30-12 and then he played provider, his clever grubber giving 17-year-old Ata Hingano his second NYC try in consecutive games.
With a 36-12 victory the Vodafone Junior Warriors have amassed 94 points in their last two games in a showing their power game has been back on song. They’re now solidly inside the top eight with eight points as they eye their next outing, again on the road, against Melbourne on Anzac Day.
There was one disquieting feature, though, with the powerhouse Solomone Kata again leaving the field in his first match back from an ankle injury. While he was on, he was dynamic out of dummy half, making more than 100 metres from 11 runs and testing the defensive line every time.
At WIN Jubilee Oval, Kogarah
St George Illawarra Dragons 12 (Euan Aitken 3 tries).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 36 (Mason Lino 2, Sam Lisone, Lafu Feagaiga, Michael Ki, Tomas Aoake, Ata Hingano tries; Mason Lino 4 conversions).
Halftime: 24-4 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Matt Noyen and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Lafu Feagaiga, Ken Maumalo, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Tomas Aoake; Mafoa’aeata Hingano, Mason Lino (c); Sam Lisone (c), Kurt Robinson, Toafofoa Sipley; Michael Ki, Ofahiki Ogden; Kouma Samson. Interchange: Iulio Afoa, James Bell, James Taylor, Solomone Kata.