Only four points separates the top 10 teams as the Vodafone Warriors head into the business end of the regular season with just nine more games to play.
They resume their campaign with their 18th-round ‘Back in Black’ clash against Parramatta at Mount Smart Stadium next Saturday (7.30pm kick-off; match day sponsor: TNT).
It’s the club’s third straight game day at Mount Smart kicking off with the NYC game against the Eels at 3.10pm with the New South Wales Cup match against Wentworthville starting at 5.10pm.
The Eels, boasting the gifted Jarryd Hayne, will be playing their first NRL fixture in Auckland since a record 38,512 members and fans witnessed the Vodafone Warriors’ debut appearance at Eden Park in 2011. The last time the two sides met at Mount Smart was in 2010 when the Vodafone Warriors won 35-6.
BUY TICKETS FOR 'BACK IN BLACK' - VODAFONE WARRIORS v EELS
The two points from this week’s second bye and Penrith’s win over Wests Tigers today see the Vodafone Warriors in seventh place starting the 18th round.
Ahead of tomorrow night’s encounter between South Sydney and Gold Coast, the Vodafone Warriors share the same points as the fourth-placed Rabbitohs. Indeed the Rabbitohs and the Vodafone Warriors are in a group of no fewer than seven teams all on 20 points.
The only teams ahead of them are Penrith, Manly and Canterbury-Bankstown all on 24 points, Penrith moving to the top on points for and against after their 26-10 win over the Tigers today.
Four points behind them from fourth to 10th on points for and against are the Rabbitohs, Sydney Roosters, Broncos, Vodafone Warriors, Storm, Eels and Tigers.
The Vodafone Warriors have an eight wins-seven losses record after 15 games as they enter the final nine-game phase in their bid to be among the eight teams in the play-offs.
The players resume training tomorrow after having the last three days off, many of them at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau City for last night’s Hydr8 Zero Heavyweight Explosion to support Kiwi champion Joseph Parker as well as Manu Vatuvei’s brother Lopini – MVP Horse – and Rob ‘The Butcher’ Berridge on the undercard. Among those in attendance were Sam Tomkins, Feleti Mateo, Konrad Hurrell, Thomas Leuluai and Suaia Matagi as well as Vatuvei, who was in his brother’s corner for his losing debut in the ring against the massive Brown Buttabean.
Of the Vodafone Warriors’ last nine games five are at Mount Smart Stadium with two of them against last year’s two grand final teams Manly on July 27 and the Sydney Roosters on August 24.
After next Saturday night’s match against the ninth-placed Eels, the Vodafone Warriors take on Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, July 19. After that they have a run of seven Sunday fixtures.
The only variety in the last seven games will be the kick-off times.
The Sunday home games against Manly (July 27), Cronulla (August 10) and Gold Coast (August 31) kick off at 4.00pm local time. The remaining Mount Smart Stadium fixture against 2013 NRL champions the Sydney Roosters (August 24) has a 2.00pm start time.
The away games against Canberra (August 3) and Newcastle (August 17) kick off at 2.00pm local time while the final regular season match against Penrith has been scheduled for a 6.30pm start.
BUY TICKETS FOR VODAFONE WARRIORS' HOME GAMES
VODAFONE WARRIORS –REMAINING NINE GAMES
Round 18 | Sat, July 12 v Parramatta Eels, Mt Smart Stadium, 7.30pm
Round 19 | Sat, July 19 v Brisbane Broncos, Suncorp Stadium, 7.30pm
Round 20 | Sun, July 27 v Manly Sea Eagles, Mt Smart Stadium, 4.00pm
Round 21 | Sun, August 3 v Canberra Raiders, GIO Stadium, 2.00pm
Round 22 | Sun, August 10 v Cronulla Sharks, Mt Smart Stadium, 4.00pm
Round 23 | Sun, August 17 v Newcastle Knights, Hunter Stadium, 2.00pm
Round 24 | Sun, August 24 v Sydney Roosters, Mt Smart Stadium, 2.00pm
Round 25 | Sun, August 31 v Gold Coast Titans, Mt Smart Stadium, 4.00pm
Round 26 | Sun, September 7 v Penrith Panthers, Sportingbet Stadium, 6.30pm
Local times listed