The Vodafone Warriors held off Brisbane 19-10 in a stunning NRL battle at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night.
After leading 13-6 at halftime, the Vodafone Warriors were just three points ahead going into the game's final quarter before Chad Townsend's 65th try ultimately sealed the deal and left his side in eighth spot at least for the time being.
While plenty in the stands had entered the Onesie Party mood, on the field the Vodafone Warriors began full of intent stitching some sizzling sequences together to stretch Brisbane in the opening minutes.
There was a bristling, bulldozing run from none other than Konrad Hurrell and also a great rescue from in-goal when he powered his way back into the field of play.
A Shaun Johnson bomb to the right went loose and should have produced a David Fusitu’a try but he fumbled with the line open.
While there was endeavour the Vodafone Warriors punctuated their game with too many errors, six coming on the first 25 minutes.
They were able to defend a few of them but eventually the pressure told with hooker Jake Granville sneaking over rather too easily on the back of another repeat set. Ben Hunt’s conversion had the Broncos out to a 6-0 lead after 17 minutes.
They were under siege again soon after but the near-simultaneous injection of interchange players Feleti Mateo, Suaia Matagi and Ben Henry had an immediate impact on the flow of the contest.
Matagi added some fresh sting with his carries and then Mateo opened Brisbane’s defence up with his silky skills, Henry carving up-field with Johnson zooming up in support on his right shoulder. He didn’t use him, though, instead producing a lovely dummy to score himself with Johnson converting to level it up at 6-6.
The Vodafone Warriors kept the heat on, throwing plenty at Brisbane’s line and gaining another reward when a shift right saw Sam Tomkins deliver the final pass for the hulking Hurrell to score. Johnson converted splendidly and on halftime added a wonderful field goal from 40 metres out for the Vodafone Warriors to go the break seven points to the good.
The second half was classic arm wrestle fare.
Manu Vatuvei produced some of his best work in a career studded with great deeds. He has never been afraid to roll up his sleeves and he certainly got into the tough stuff now, carrying the ball back at the heart of the defence and, at one stage, delivering a series of stunning offensive tackles.
There was no reward for it, though, as Brisbane broke out from deep inside its territory to give Ben Barba space down the left edge. He shot around the defence and then shook off Sam Tomkins for a superb try. Hunt couldn't convert and the Vodafone Warriors headed into the final 20 minutes just ahead 13-10.
Five minutes later came the play of the night, the Vodafone Warriors working to their left insdie their own half where Ikahihifo delivered a superb ball to release Ngani Laumape. The centre, on report for a lifting tackle, bolted upfield and positioned the supporting Chad Townsend perfectly for the critical try of the evening. Johnson's conversion had his team leading 19-10. They did all they needed to from there to close the contest.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 19 (Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Chad Townsend tries; Shaun Johnson 3 conversions, field goal).
Brisbane Broncos 10 (Jake Granville, Ben Barba tries; Ben Hunt conversion).
Halftime: 13-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Dave Munro.
Vodafone Warriors: Sam Tomkins; David Fusitu’a, Konrad Hurrell, Ngani Laumape, Manu Vatuvei; Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Sam Rapira; Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (c); Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Feleti Mateo, Suaia Matagi, Charlie Gubb, Ben Henry.