A sensational Mason Lino conversion from the sideline gave the Vodafone Junior Warriors a thrilling 18-18 draw with Penrith tonight and a place in the NYC finals for a record seventh straight season.
The Vodafone Junior Warriors went into the match in ninth spot on the ladder needing a win – or a draw – to extend their record of being the only club to make the play-offs every season the NYC has been in existence.
With seconds left they were 12-18 down but with one last chance and just enough time to arrange a heart-stopping try to winger Ngataua Hukatai.
At 16-18 the Vodafone Junior Warriors were out of the top eight. It was all down to Lino taking the make-or-break conversion attempt from the touchline. He had an entire stadium booing and willing him to fail but Lino hit the spot, earning a draw to take the Vodafone Junior Warriors to 29 points and eighth place.
Earlier it had been 6-6 at halftime before the Vodafone Junior Warriors went 12-6 ahead with a Ken Maumalo try only for the Panthers to score the next two tries for an 18-12 edge.
There it stayed until the last-second heroics earning the Vodafone Junior Warriors an elimination play-off against the fifth-placed Sydney Roosters next weekend.
Match details | Sportingbet Stadium, Penrith
Penrith Panthers 18 (Chris Smith, Tyrone May, Josh Jay tries; Jarrod Brackenhofer 3 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors 18 (Tuimoala Lolohea, Ken Maumalo, Ngataua Hukatai tries; Mason Lino 3 conversions).
Referees: Chris Sutton.
Vodafone Warriors: Brad Abbey; Ngataua Hukatai, Ken Maumalo, Solomone Kata, Metia Lisati; Tuimoala Lolohea, Mason Lino (c); Sam Lisone (c), Kurt Robinson, Kouma Samson; Marata Niukore, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard; Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: Ofahiki Ogden, Toafofoa Sipley, Iulio Afoa, Nathaniel Roache.