NYC | Setback at home
The Vodafone Junior Warriors were unable to build on their outstanding performance in Brisbane last week as they fell 20-36 to Manly in their 20th-round NYC encounter at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday.
The home side appeared to wield control in the first half but was outlasted by the Sea Eagles, who came out of the tunnel for the second half with renewed vigour.
Fullback Brad Abbey capped off a fast start for the Vodafone Junior Warriors when he darted in from close range with three minutes gone following a brilliant short ball from captain Sam Lisone.
Manly replied seven minutes later through second-rower Rhys Armstrong, who was set up by a timely pass from talismanic halfback Riley Travers.
The northern Sydney squad then went in front, capitalising on a costly mistake by the home side. The Vodafone Junior Warriors drove the restart dead and watched as Manly marched the ball downfield with ease before hooker Hugh Pratt was able to score from dummy half to give his side a 10-6 lead.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors then pieced together an impressive run of play buoyed by Lisone, who crossed twice for his side to regain the lead.
Lisone first crashed over in the 24th minute following a clever ball from hooker Kurt Robinson. He then doubled his tally seven minutes later, combining his bullish strength with momentum to force his way over.
It would have been a positive way to enter the break for Stacey Jones' side but for Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard being sin binned just before the halftime siren; the back rower was given 10 minutes off for dissent.
When play resumed in the second half Manly was quick to signal its intent.
Just three minutes after the resumption second rower Jamil Hopoate, son of John and brother of Will, scored between the posts.
Vodafone Junior Warriors winger Viliami Kaveinga went over in the corner in the 53rd minute to make it 20-16 but that would be his side's final score of the day.
Manly took the ascendancy thereafter, beginning with a try under the bar to Michael Stig that edged the Sea Eagles in front 22-20.
Fullback Charlie Taylor made this lead more comfortable in the 63rd minute when he forced his way through. Centre Luke Garner added the extras to make it a two-possession game at 28-20.
Jesse Ramien added another four-pointer out on the wing before halfback Travers was rewarded for his clever direction throughout the match.
Travers pounced on an offload from Jazz Tevaga and was able to peel away for the match-sealing try three minutes from time.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors now find themselves sitting on the outside-looking-in at ninth place.
Manly, just one point ahead, has now won five straight and is orchestrating a remarkable turnaround to its 2014 campaign.
Including their round 14 bye and round 15 draw with Cronulla, the Sea Eagles have not been beaten in almost two months, a streak dating back to their loss to the Knights on June 1.
With only six rounds left in the regular season each game is vital to the Vodafone Junior Warriors' hopes of finishing in the top-eight.
The fight for playoff football continues next Sunday in the ACT when the side takes on the Raiders, an outfit the Vodafone Junior Warriors memorably routed 54-0 in May this year.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 20 (Sam Lisone 2, Brad Abbey, Viliami Kaveinga tries; Mafoa'aeata Hingano 2 conversions).
Manly Sea Eagles 36 (Rhys Armstrong, Hugh Pratt, Jamil Hopoate, Charlie Taylor, Michael Stig, Jesse Ramien, Riley Travers tries; Luke Garner 4 conversions).
Halftime: 16-10 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Peter Gough and Shane Rehm.
Vodafone Warriors: Brad Abbey; Viliami Kaveinga, Lafu Feagaiga, Marata Niukore, Metia Lisati; Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Semisi Tyrell; Paul Tuli, Kurt Robinson, Sam Lisone (c); Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Michael Ki; Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: Iulio Afoa, Nathaniel Roache, Toafofoa Sipley, James Bell.