A late field goal gave bottom-placed Canterbury-Bankstown a shock 31-30 win over the fifth-placed Vodafone Junior Warriors in Sunday’s 10th-round NYC match at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
The result was a major disappointment for the Vodafone Junior Warriors coming off their compelling 54-0 victory over Canberra last weekend.
In contrast the young Bulldogs had been pumped 50-10 by St George Illawarra in the ninth round. The odds were certainly stacked against them.
From the outset there were signs the Vodafone Junior Warriors would continue in a winning vein when they started with a Paul Ulberg try in the opening minute. In just his second NYC match he swooped on a loose Bulldogs pass and went 50 metres for his third try in the competition.
Loose forward James Bell also made it three tries in two weeks when he drove over from close range while there was rich quality in the side’s third try.
Fullback Brad Abbey started the set on his own goal-line when he expertly snaffled an attacking chip; then moments later he backed up and ran 40 metres to score at the other end of the field.
That had the Vodafone Junior Warriors leading 16-6 but, as they would throughout, the Bulldogs stayed in the hunt scoring their second try of the day to close up to 12-16.
Close to halftime the Vodafone Junior Warriors restored their 10-point advantage when interchange prop Toafofoa Sipley was simply too big and too strong close to the line, scoring a try Ata Hingano converted for a 22-12 halftime lead.
It should have been the a platform to build on but the Vodafone Junior Warriors not only invited the Bulldogs back into the battle after halftime but also allowed them to take the lead.
They had two tries in a matter of minutes to go ahead 24-22 and there was a real whiff of an upset.
Back came the Vodafone Junior Warriors through an Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard try to lead 26-24 with 19 minutes to play (the missed conversion from a handy angle would prove costly, though).
Only six minutes later they were behind again, the Bulldogs 30-26 ahead through a converted try.
Ulberg came up with some real magic scoring his second try with six minutes to go, Hingano again astray with the conversion attempt to leave it all tied up at 30-30.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors set up for a field goal but Hingano’s attempt went just wide. Not so the Bulldogs when they put themselves in position in the dying stages, standoff Brad Keighran making no mistake to give his side an unexpected win.
At Eden Park, Auckland
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 31 (Dujuan Liolevave, Royce Hunt, Brendan Cox, Danny Fualalo, Jack Creighton tries; Brad Keighran 5 conversions, field goal).
Vodafone Junior Warriors 30 (Paul Ulberg 2, James Bell, Brad Abbey, Toafofoa Sipley, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard tries; Ata Hingano 3 conversions).
Halftime: 22-12 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referee: Shane Rehm.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Paul Ulberg, Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu’a, John Wesley Tauti; Mafoa’aeata Hingano, Mikaere Beattie; Iulio Afoa, Kurt Robinson, Kouma Samson; Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Matiu Love-Henry; James Bell. Interchange: Alamoti Finau, Katamiro Atera, Toafofoa Sipley, Nathaniel Roache.