NYC | Shutting out the Sharks
The Vodafone Junior Warriors made it 98 points in consecutive outings when they shut out the Cronulla Sharks 40-0 in Sunday's 22nd-round NYC match at Mount Smart Stadium.
The home side's win followed last week's 54-6 romp over Canberra and enabled it to climb a spot to seventh on the points table.
The lop-sided final score didn’t reflect the nature of the contest early on, though; indeed it was a stalemate until the half-hour mark.
In the 15th minute fullback Brad Abbey looked to have scored after he collected an acrobatic pass from Metia Lisati, who leapt up to knock back an Ata Hingano kick. However, a captain's challenge from Cronulla revealed Lisati's foot was on the touchline before leaping to tap the ball back infield resulting in the would-be try being rubbed out.
Neither side looked like scoring following this until a critical error opened the door for the home side.
Sharks centre Paul Simona’s offload went to ground, Vodafone Junior Warriors Nathaniel Roache scooped up the loose ball and raced 50 metres to score.
Prop Bunty Afoa made the slim lead a little more comfortable heading into the break with a try in the 39th minute. Afoa received the ball at close range and took it forward himself, grabbing his first NYC try. Hingano was unable to add the extras and the side took a 10-0 lead into the sheds at the break.
The home side's performance was more convincing in the second half and the points started to pile up.
Marata Niukore was the first to cross the line after play resumed, doing so by weaving his way through the Sharks' backline and leaving defenders in his wake in the 46th minute.
Five minutes later second rower James Bell followed suit, punching his way over the line from short range. Hingano added the extras to stretch the lead to 22-0.
Their next drive down the field was equally fruitful. Abbey was able to find his way onto the score sheet after having his earlier ‘try’ written off. Quick ball movement left the Sharks listless and unable to slide across. Captain Sam Lisone threw the final pass to Abbey, who darted in for the score to make it 26-0.
Abbey was in the mix once more in the 70th minute, this time providing the crucial assist to Paul Ulberg, who crashed over in the corner. Abbey drew the defence in and threw a deft pass at the last second to the Wellington-born winger.
Halfback Semisi Tyrell was next to join the list of try scorers, selling a dummy to the Cronulla defence and racing into the space he created to score between the posts.
Not surprisingly, Abbey had a hand in the game's last - and perhaps most impressive - try. The fullback was able to break the Cronulla line on his own 20 metre line and take it all the way to score, bringing up 40 points for his side.
Next week the Vodafone Junior Warriors will expect far a more formidable challenge when they travel to Newcastle to face the first-placed Knights at Hunter Stadium.
With only four rounds now remaining, each match takes on more and more significance in the chase for finals football.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Junior Warriors 40 (Brad Abbey 2, Nathaniel Roache, Bunty Afoa, Marata Niukore, James Bell, Paul Ulberg, Semisi Tyrell tries; Ata Hingano 4 conversions).
Cronulla Sharks 0.
Halftime: 10-0 Vodafone Junior Warriors.
Referees: Phil Haines and Shane Rehm.
Vodafone Warriors: Brad Abbey; Paul Ulberg, Nathaniel Roache, Marata Niukore, Metia Lisati; Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Semisi Tyrell; Sam Lisone (c), Kurt Robinson, Kouma Samson; Toafofoa Sipley, Michael Ki; James Bell. Interchange: Bunty Afoa, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Jazz Tevaga, Lafu Feagaiga.