The Vodafone Junior Warriors' hopes of a finals berth suffered a setback when they went down 18-20 to the Sydney Roosters in a hard-fought 24th-round NYC encounter at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday.
The visiting Roosters started positively and profited early with prop Jokatama Dokonivalu scoring in the sixth minute.
Dokonivalu took a short ball from captain Alex Thomas to force his way through the home side’s goal-line defence.
The Roosters again exploited the home side’s left edge on their next trip down the field.
Winger Jack Goodsell was able to finish a move sprung by a clever Braden Uele offload, diving over near the corner flag. Paul Momirovski put the conversion wide, leaving the lead at 10-0.
The home side offered a response in the 22nd minute through Mason Lino, who threw a sublime dummy and then carved his way through for the try and converted to make it 10-6.
With four minutes to go in the half Roosters centre Brendan Elliot restored the lead, though, fighting off Metia Lisati to plant the ball over the line.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors elected to challenge on the suspicion that there was a double movement but the try was allowed to stand, stretching the lead to 16-6.
Right before the half Toafofoa Sipley ensured his side took some momentum into the tunnel, though. He managed to force his way through beside the posts merely seconds before the siren. Lino converted, closing the gap to 16-12.
On the other side of the break it was the Auckland club which scored first, doing so emphatically after Nathaniel Roache broke the line on his own 20-metre line. He managed to scamper 60 metres before firing a brilliant pass across his body to the waiting Brad Abbey who finished off the move.
Lino's conversion gave the home side its first lead of the afternoon, making it 18-16.
The score remained this way for almost 20 minutes before the Roosters appeared to have found an answer. Nene MacDonald brushed aside several defenders on his way over the line in the 68th minute, only to have his try disallowed due to obstruction following a challenge by the home team.
The Roosters were not to be discouraged, though, and winger Momirovski was able to slot a penalty five minutes later on their next drive down the field to level the score.
Momirovski was handed another opportunity to claim the lead in the 78th minute from 30 metres out, following a call against the Vodafone Junior Warriors for an illegal strip. His kick was true, putting the Roosters out in front by 20-18.
The two-pointer would prove to be the match-winner in a closely-contested game but the defeat was a blow for the home side.
Despite the loss the Vodafone Junior Warriors remain eighth on the ladder and they will eagerly await the result of tomorrow night’s clash between Penrith and Melbourne to see if they stay there. If the Storm win, the Vodafone Junior Warriors will slip to ninth.
Next week the side are at home to the Gold Coast Titans who are currently 13th on the ladder.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 18 (Mason Lino, Toafofoa Sipley, Brad Abbey tries; Mason Lino 3 conversions).
Sydney Roosters 20 (Jokatama Dokonivalu, Jack Goodsell, Brendan Elliott tries; Paul Momirovski 2 penalties, 2 conversions).
Halftime: 16-12 Sydney Roosters.
Referees: Chris Sutton and Kasey Badger.
Vodafone Warriors: Brad Abbey; Paul Ulberg, Nathaniel Roache, Marata Niukore, Metia Lisati; Semisi Tyrell, Mason Lino (c); Kouma Samson, Kurt Robinson, Sam Lisone (c); Ken Maumalo, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard; Michael Ki. Interchange: Toafofoa Sipley, Jazz Tevaga, Iulio Afoa, Ofahiki Ogden.