The Vodafone Junior Warriors have jumped up four places on the Holden Cup ladder with a 28-12 victory over the Gold Coast Titans.
In the second match of a triple-header at Mt Smart Stadium, the Vodafone Junior Warriors led 10-6 at halftime after a first half in which there was little between the two teams.
The 15th-placed Titans grabbed the early ascendancy through a try to second-rower Jaiden Hawkes in the seventh minute. Kane Elgey converted to give the visitors a 6-0 lead.
It wasn’t long before the Vodafone Junior Warriors struck back as centre Solomone Kata scored on the left edge. Mason Lino missed the conversion, leaving the Titans in the lead 6-4.
Kata added another try in the 23rd minute to put the Vodafone Junior Warriors in front, and Lino found his range to extend the advantage to 10-6.
The margin remained until halfime in a tight contest, despite Lino being sent to the bin for his role in shutting down a long break by Titans winger Zac Sharp.
The Titans did get over the line while the Vodafone Junior Warriors were a man down, but were penalised for double movement.
A dropped bomb by the Titans on their line followed by a penalty gave the Vodafone Junior Warriors repeat sets in the opening of the second half, but they couldn’t capitalise.
The pressure finally told in the 53rd minute with quick play-the-balls creating space and Marata Niukore off-loaded in a three-man tackle for Lino to slide over.
He converted his own try to stretch the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ lead to 16-6.
The Titans were let back into the match early in the final quarter when a scrappy possession forced half Deacon Fletcher to put a bomb and it was latched onto by winger Zac Spring in a contest with his opposite Metia Lisati.
Elgey’s conversion got Gold Coast to within four points.
A string of penalties then gave the Titans plenty of possession and territory but errors helped the Vodafone Junior Warriors prevent them from scoring.
An error by the Titans deep in their half in the 70th minute was the catalyst for the Vodafone Junior Warriors to put the score out to 22-12 from a try to Tofofoa Sipley, converted by Lino.
Adam Tuimavave-Gerard scored a converted try in the last play of the game for the 28-12 final result.
The gritty victory moves the Vodafone Junior Warriors from 10th to seventh position in the standings. They are tied with the Rabbitohs, Storm and next week’s opponents Penrith on 28 competition points but have a far superior for-and-against than those teams.
Vodafone Warriors: 28 (Solomone Kata (2), Marata Nuikore, Mason Lino, Tofofoa Sipley, Adam Tuimavave-Gerard tries; Mason Lino five conversions)
Gold Coast Titans: 12 (Jaiden Hawkes, Zac Spring tries; Kane Elgey two conversions)
Referees: Jon Stone and Peter Gough.
Vodafone Junior Warriors: Brad Abbey; Paul Ulberg, Ngataua Hukatai, Solomone Kata, Metia Lisati; Kurt Robinson, Mason Lino (c); Sam Lisone (c), Nathaniel Roache, Toafofoa Sipley; Ken Maumalo, Adam Tuimavave-Gerard; Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: Marata Niukore, Makaere Beattie, Ofahiki Ogden, Bunty Afoa.