Carlos Tuimavave's first half double helped the Vodafone Warriors to  a 36-28 win over the Mounties in today's New South Wales Cup elimination  final at Leichhardt Oval.. Image | www.photosport.co.nz

NSW CUP | Gritty win over Manly

A brave second half defensive effort carried the Vodafone Warriors to a hard-earned 22-18 victory over the Manly Sea Eagles in today’s 10th-round New South Wales Cup encounter at Brookvale Oval.

After a scintillating start delivered three tries and a 16-0 lead in as many minutes the Vodafone Warriors were on defensive duty for long stretches of the contest as the Sea Eagles came back at them in a late bid to steal victory.

Time after time, though, the Vodafone Warriors came up with scrambling efforts to deny the home side, especially in the last 20 minutes when they defended a precarious 22-18 lead while battling the effects of a 23-degree day in Sydney.

The Rohan Smith-coached side went into the match running eighth after back-to-back losses to Penrith and the Mounties.

With a fairly lengthy list of injuries limiting selection options, Smith was forced to field a line-up light on experience highlighted by the inclusion of five NYC-eligible players.

In the opening stanza, though, the Vodafone Warriors were close to untouchable as they hit the Sea Eagles with three tries inside the first 15 minutes.

Winger Jarred Wilson, back in the side after an ankle injury, couldn’t have started his comeback experience any better as he scored twice in the first five minutes (the second after a great length-of-the-field set); he has doubles in the first two matches of the year and now he had a third to take his season’s tally to six in five games.

Tuimoala Lolohea converted the second of the Wilson tries for a 10-0 lead and it became 16-0 when fullback Steve Waetford hit back rower Dominique Peyroux for another try Lolohea converted.

The momentum then began to shift, Manly enjoying a big share of possession and territory to dictate terms. Todd Wilson scored twice and suddenly the Vodafone Warriors led just 16-12 with plenty of time to go until the break.

Bravely, though, the Vodafone Warriors held on to go to halftime lead and then came up with the classic response just three minutes into the second half when they worked a try for interchange forward Agnatius Paasi. With Lolohea’s third conversion the score opened up to 20-12.

There it stayed until the 60th minute when Manly’s New Zealand-born halfback Manaia Rudolph scored converted to draw within four points of the visitors.

With 20 minutes to play, there were plenty of Sydney-based observers believing Manly would finish over the top of a Vodafone Warriors side supposedly tiring in the hot conditions.

Through sheer will they repelled an error-ridden Manly side and ultimately ended the match on attack to earn their fifth win of the season. It lifted them to 13 points, sixth spot on the ladder for now pending the outcome of Sunday’s clash between North Sydney and Newcastle.

The Vodafone Warriors are away again next Saturday when they face the Bears at North Sydney Oval.

Match details:

At Brookvale Oval, Manly

Manly Sea Eagles 18 (Todd Wilson 2, Manaia Rudolph tries; Manaia Rudolph 3 conversions).

Vodafone Warriors 22 (Jarred Wilson 2, Dominique Peyroux, Agnatius Paasi tries; Tuimoala Lolohea 3 conversions).

Halftime: 16-12 Vodafone Warriors.

Referee: Chris Sutton.

Vodafone Warriors: Steve Waetford (c); Jarred Wilson, Solomone Kata, Carlos Tuimavave, Dane Nielsen; Tuimoala Lolohea, Mason Lino; Nathaniel Peteru, Siliva Havili, Upu Poching; Raymond Faitala Mariner, Dominique Peyroux; John Palavi. Interchange: Agnatius Paasi, Sam Lisone, Abraham Papalii, Michael Ki.