The Vodafone Warriors have snuck into the NSW Cup top eight following today’s must-win 25th round clash against the North Sydney Bears at Mt Smart Stadium.
Second-rower Agnatius Paasi scored a hat-trick in the eight try rout of the last-placed Bears to snap a four-game losing streak for the home side.
The match got off to an inauspicious start when North Sydney scored a converted try to halfback Blake Nichols before the Vodafone Warriors had touched the ball.
The Vodafone Warriors got on the board in the 15th minute when their NRL players Feleti Mateo and Chad Townsend combined to put Paasi over for his first try.
Townsend’s conversion locked up the scores 6-6.
The same movement produced Paasi’s second try in the 25th minute to make it 12-6 following Townsend’s conversion.
The lead sparked some much needed energy for the Vodafone Warriors after a lack-lustre opening quarter.
A strong run by Paasi earned a penalty and in the ensuing set, captain Steve Waetford off-loaded near the line for David Bhana to dive over and Townsend’s boot made it 18-6 at halftime.
It was one-way traffic in the second half as the Warriors piled on tries to Abraham Papalii, Bhana, Albert Vete and Mateo in third quarter, Townsend converting all four to make it 42-6.
North Sydney got on the board again in the 72nd minute when prop Nathaniel Neal spun his way to a try which Arlidge converted.
Paasi claimed his hat-trick to close out the scoring with Townsend maintaining his perfect record for 48-12.
Other results had gone Vodafone Warriors’ way earlier in the round to give them a sniff of making the play-offs in eighth position.
Before the match, the Vodafone Warriors were on ninth with 26 competition points, behind the eighth-placed Cronulla Sharks on 27 points.
The Sharks loss to the Mounties 24-38 yesterday had kept the Vodafone Warriors’ hopes alive, provided they could tame the Bears.
Today’s victory leapfrogs the Vodafone Warriors over the Sharks into a finals berth, and they will take on the Mounties in the 5 v 8 quarter-final at 2pm (AEST) next Sunday at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.
Vodafone Warriors: 48 (Agnatius Paasi (3), David Bhana (2), Abraham Papalii, Albert Vete, Feleti Mateo tries; Chad Townsend 8 conversions)
North Sydney Bears: 12 (Blake Nichols, Nathaniel Neale tries; Kurt Aldridge two conversions)
Referee: Jamal Thompson
Vodafone Warriors: Steve Waetford (c); Jarred Wilson, Carlos Tuimavave, Michael Sio, Jarrod Tua; Chad Townsend, Sam Cook; Sam Lousi, Siliva Havili, Upu Poching; Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Agnatius Paasi; Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Albert Vete, Abraham Papalii, David Bhana, Michael Ki.