The Vodafone Warriors overcame the extreme odds of playing a man short for almost 60 minutes to eke out a courageous 6-4 win over the Wyong Roos in Sunday’s 19th-round New South Wales Cup clash at Morry Breen Oval.
They were down to 12 men for 10 minutes early in the contest when prop Charlie-Paul Gubb was sinbinned after throwing a punch.
He was barely back on the field when the side was reduced to 12 men again, this time permanently after debutant centre Ken Maumalo was sent off for lifting his knee as he charged into the defensive line.
Referee Adam Cassidy’s 33rd-minute decision left the Vodafone Warriors facing the seemingly impossible task of defending a precarious 6-0 lead with just 12 men for the last 47 minutes of the match.
They’d scored first while Gubb was off the field, hooker Siliva Havili producing a trademark effort from dummy half. Halfback Sam Cook, again replacing injured Tuimoala Lolohea (hamstring), provided the conversion which would prove to be the most critical scoring act of the game.
Playing with the breeze the Vodafone Warriors had dominated much of the first half without being able to profit as much as they would have preferred but the defensive steel which has made them the best in the competition was certainly in evidence.
Points were in short supply the last time the two sides met in Auckland last month – the Roos won 12-8 – but it was reasonable to imagine this encounter would open up in the second half with Wyong taking on an under-manned side.
Instead the Vodafone Warriors made the early forays on attack with Havili and Gubb going close to scoring in the opening minutes.
Thereafter the Vodafone Warriors were largely in defensive mode as the Roos set about trying to find a way through but time after time they were repelled by heroic defence, unable to take advantage of their extra man.
It played out that way for set after set until finally the line was breached in the 67th minute when standoff Jono Ford’s long ball put centre Jay Florimo over. It was down to Mark Kheirallah to level it up but his conversion attempt was astray.
There was still time for Wyong but the Vodafone Warriors wouldn’t be denied as they protected their line to secure victory in the bravest fashion, a win which took them back into fifth spot on 25 points, just a point behind Illawarra (third) and Wests Tigers (fourth).
In their 19 games – 10 wins, a draw and seven losses – the Vodafone Warriors have conceded only 354 points, an average of 18.6 a game.
On Sunday (July 27) they’re back at Mount Smart Stadium for the first match on the tripleheader bill (11.40am kick-off) facing lowly-ranked Manly. When the two teams met at Brookvale Oval earlier in the season, the Vodafone Warriors ground out an 18-14 win.
Match details | Morry Breen Oval, Wyong
Wyong Roos 4 (Jay Florimo try).
Vodafone Warriors 6 (Siliva Havili try; Sam Cook conversion).
Halftime: 6-0 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Adam Cassidy.
Vodafone Warriors: Steve Waetford (c); Ngataua Hukatai, Ken Maumalo, Dominique Peyroux, Jarrod Tua; Carlos Tuimavave, Sam Cook; Sam Lousi, Siliva Havili, Charlie-Paul Gubb; Michael Sio, Raymond Faitala-Mariner; John Palavi. Interchange: Sione Lousi, Albert Vete, David Bhana, Upu Poching.