FLASHBACK FRIDAY | August 26, 2007
As great days go at Mount Smart Stadium, this one is right up there among the best.
There was so much hanging on it as the Vodafone Warriors prepared to host the second-placed Manly Sea Eagles in the last regular season home game of the year and the second-to-last match before the play-offs.
Coming off a 24-26 loss to Canberra the Vodafone Warriors were running sixth but still with a decent shot at making the top four to earn a home final.
It was also a landmark game for long-serving Wairangi Koopu as he eyed his 150th NRL appearance.
And to add to the lustre of the occasion the Vodafone Warriors honoured the Auckland representative team from 1977. The Bill Sorensen-coached side gained a special place in history with a hat-trick of famous wins at Carlaw Park by beating Australia 19-15, Great Britain 14-10 and France 17-0 in the space of 21 days.
Squad members were guests of honours for the Manly match while the Vodafone Warriors marked the 30th anniversary of the Auckland team’s grand slam by playing in a stunning 1977 replica strip.
Auckland was abuzz with Vodafone Warriors fever at the time; a jam-packed crowd of 25,070 at Mount Smart Stadium to witness what turned into a memorable victory on an unforgettable day.
Koopu was thrust into service in the centres after the Vodafone Warriors lost Jerome Ropati with a shoulder injury. He responded with two of the team’s six tries with current players Manu Vatuvei and Simon Mannering also on the score sheet in a 36-14 victory.
It pushed the Vodafone Warriors into fourth place, a position they sealed with a 24-20 away win over Penrith a week later.
August 26, 2007 | Mount Smart Stadium
Vodafone Warriors 36 (Wairangi Koopu 2, George Gatis, Epalahame Lauaki, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei tries; Michael Witt 6 goals).
Manly Sea Eagles 14 (Michael Banu, Chris Hicks, Jamie Lyon tries; Jamie Lyon goal).
Halftime: 12-10 Vodafone Warriors.
Referee: Paul Simpkins.
Vodafone Warriors: Wade McKinnon; Michael Crockett, Jerome Ropati, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei; Michael Witt, Grant Rovelli; Sam Rapira, Nathan Fien, Steve Price (c); Ruben Wiki, Logan Swann; Micheal Luck. Interchange: George Gatis, Evarn Tuimavave, Epalahame Lauaki, Wairangi Koopu.
Manly Sea Eagles: Michael Robertson; Michael Bani, Jamie Lyon, Clint Halden, Jamie Lyon, Chris Hicks; Steve Menzies, Matt Orford; Mark Bryant, Michael Monaghan, Glenn Hall; Anthony Watmough, Jack Afamasaga; Jason Wells. Interchange: Adam Cuthbertson, Travis Burns, Vic Mauro, Jason King.